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"Country Ham Christmas Special" by Brad LaMar

Logline: A woman is dealing with the loss of her mother while she works at a small town diner.

Genre: Comedy - Drama - Family

Cast Size: 6

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

Contest: Rules? We don't need no stinking rules! (Dec. 2007)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent

Comments Made During the Contest

A.M. Wallace (Level 0)

I think there is a good story in here but you need to do some more work to bring it out. As soon as you mentioned Sam, I knew he was her father so for me the suspense was lacking. Your backstory exposition feels like exposition to me intstead of normal conversation. Your dialog feels a little stilted. You have some typos that need to be fixed. Once they are fixed, it will make a smoother read. You use "Ashley walks" many times. Maybe try some other ways to describe what she is doing to make it more interesting for the reader. Your movie should start with "FADE IN" and end with "FADE OUT" or something similar.

Alex Hollister (Level 4)

Strange little script this. The dialogue is mostly just functional stuff, the characters aren't that well fleshed out and not a lot really happens.... but I like it. There are parts of the script that suggest this is written by someone new to the medium and yet the actual visual style is quite impressive. The writer clearly has a grasp of how things play out on screen because there's a real comfortable flow to the narrative. IT's difficult to put my finger on, but it just felt like I was reading a film. Format issues aside, this was a flowing read and a cute little story albeit with one of those endings that feels overly convenient and worse still a little sped up to meet page restrictions. Entertaining and with some interesting character dynamics to propel the story forward. Good stuff.

Austin Bennett (Level 4)

It's a sweet story, but there are a ton of small errors.

You shouldn't capitalize the character names every time. The first time is enough. (Character names are capitalized over dialogue, though.)

Text that appears on screen is capitalized.

I think it should be a period instead of a question mark at Tom's first sentence.

Don't break up character names and the dialogue. Put both on the next page.

Your actions are way too clunky. Try breaking them up by character. The rule of thumb is four lines max.

I thought it was a little obvious that Sam was Ashley's dad. Maybe it'd be less obvious if Tom's lines were cut in the beginning. Or at least the "on her own" bit.

Like I said, though, very sweet story. I don't think the title fits.

Barbara Lewis (Level 4)

I think you set up the ending very nicely. Just enough of a mention of the mother's death not to reveal the end; just enough mention of Sam. I think that by focusing on the other characters it wasn't so obvious, so that was really good. I love the image of the final scene.

Couple of minor nits - some description paragraphs are long and could be split into two. Also I noticed that Ashley says people's names a lot. But in real life, people don't say each other's names all that much if you think about it. This is something I always notice in dialogue. For example on page one she says Tom's name three times, but I bet in real life she would have only said it once.

Great work!

Brad Huffman Parent (Level 4)

I know it's really hard to be original in this business, but I saw where this was going from the beginning. It's a nice idea, but it doesn't interest me because I've seen it so many times before. There's nothing new or different that would motivate me sit sit and spend 5 minutes watching this.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

This was pretty good. My main gripe would be that the elderly couple used up so much script and ended up to be completely irrelevant to the story. Your writing is good and the idea here was alright, but I think you could cut out alot of the elderly couple's scenes and use the extra space to elaborate more on Ashley's life. The ending would have been more effective if we had known her to be fatherless all along. As it is, we know her mom died but we don't know anything about her father. In the last few lines of the script we learn she didn't have a father just as she finds out who it is. That would have worked better if we'd known all along, I think.

Overall, nice job. This is probably only a rewrite or two away from being excellent.

Caleb Parazette (Level 3)

Great title. Country ham indeed. Very impressive writing. Really captured it.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Part way through and I'm having real difficulty keeping up with all the characters that keep appearing. As I've said before - too many, and NONE of them have the chance to come to life.

Although the ending was touching - a lot of the story was taken up with Bill's heath issues and his moaning about them, which had nothing to do with the kernel of your story - Ashley discovering her father.

Casper Helenius (Level 1)

Like the setup and the overall style. Didn't go particularly with the ending, but that's a matter of taste :) Good job!

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus)

I thought this was good, nicely written, with a sweet ending.

When I got to the top of page 2, I was thinking Sam is Ashley's father. By page 3 I was convinced.

Difficult to do in 5 pages, but you might try to make it a little less obvious. My suggestions would be:

Don't mention the "single mom" thing in the beginning, instead, when she brings dinner to the old couple, have the old man give his condolences about her Mom (and maybe when she leaves the old woman makes a snyde comment about her havig been an unwed mother - if you even need this at all. She could just mention something about being alone in the world now). This way, we spend the whole movie wondering who Sam is (probably a creep eyeing her). When she turns around, Sam's leaving, a dollar for the coffee and the envelope on the counter. She can take her time getting to it, building anticipation for the audience and so that by the time she reads it, we think she's too late. But she runs outside and he's waiting there!

Also, thought Joe's explaining that Sam used to live there then disappeared was way too convenient. Don't really need it.
A little work on this could really make it a winner. Good job.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

This story has a ton of potential.

I love the characters and the way they all talk to each other. I really get the sense of a small town.

However, while I think the story is great, you handle everything so nice and subtlety until the last moment and then you drop that bomb of a letter. It's too much too fast.

I don't normally do this, but I really liked this a lot, and below is my suggestion for a rewrite (feel free to ignore me).

First keep it short - I think it works great that way. Have the scene start with her filling this man's coffee. He watches her the whole time she's working, never saying much, just watching her talk to the customers. Then when she asks Joe about him, he should be a bit more surprised when he recognizes him. He could even mention to her that he used to date her mother. This brings her back into the kitchen - she's filled with questions. However, when she goes back outside, the man is gone. All that's left is a letter with her name on it. End the short there.

Chris Thomas (Level 3)

The dialog is convincing and written well to show us it is in the south (or at least that is what I got) without being stereotypical. Not a fan of the ending...I would just have him disappear, but your ending honestly doesn't take away from the story at all...just a personal preference.

DW Pollard (Level 4)

The writing is good, the story moves at a quick pace, the characters are interesting.

The story was touching, but a little too predictable. I also thought the ending too abrupt and without much conflict or tension.

Actually, I think that is the problem I had with the whole story; I would have liked to see more conflict to add a little spice to the script. Everything flowed too easily, everyone too happy and getting what they want (except for Bill, that is, which made him the most interesting and appealing).

What if...Ashley got into with Sam or she thinks he's hitting on her or had some sort of conflict with him before it is realized that he is her father? Don't make the story going so easy and calm - give us a storm to weather and conquer.

Gary Murphy (Level 3)

Hi, It was a nice idea to have a waitress as the central character diving between customers and building the story up but I am not sure that with only 5 pages you pulled it off. I certainly would think about cutting Tom out of the story, with only 5 pages to work with you really cannot afford to have a random character taking up nearly a page when his only job was to make sure the viewer knew that Ashley's mom had died. Surely Bill and Martha could have done that? Unfortunately you never had enough space to end the script properly and the ending ended up being quite weak.

Your dialogue was good however and you nearly nailed the formatting but you let yourself down with having everyones names in capitals, a real no no. You should only capitalize names the first time we meet a character and in the dialogue headings only.

I do like your idea however and would like to see you address the problems with it and submit it somewhere as I think it would make for a great short.


Jason Sikorski (Level 2)

I think you have a decent story, but it's lacking conflict in my opinion. The only real conflict you have is Bill's disdain for decaf, and that's obviously just something off to the side of the central plot.

Jay Knisely (Level 4)

Like last month's Xmas entries with a gift of a father, I guess.
Plus: gobs of white space (maybe too much); easy reading
Minus: Bill and Martha comes across as filler; Ashley and Joe not well drawn; story maybe too pat. Really not quite good enough.

John LaBonney (Level 4)

A good story idea which has a lot of potential. I think that the main issue is that there's perhaps too much build-up without enough drama. You might want to find a way to make the man even more mysterious or weird and really enhance the curiosity of the viewer.

Jon Watts (Level 3)

The primary characters need more development. I found myself caring for Bill and Martha more than Ashley or Sam.

Kirk White (Level 5)

Giving this a good. I thought it was well constructed. I think 5 pages was a little too little for a story of this magnitude...if you'd had more you wouldn't have had to wrap it up so abruptly. I'd suggest now that the contest is over, take a few more passes and expand. I think the banter with the old couple...the business of the diner...integrated well into the mystery of "who's this guy" I had no doubts who's story this was even though Sam didn't get a lot of screen time....liked that the real story was between the cracks (and trust me..this is hard to acomplish). I just think the ending was so abrupt that it's almost jarring. Maybe just the picture and not the "luke I am your father" letter....I'm not sure.

I'd like to see this expanded.

Margaret Avnet (Level 4)

I think you hit the spot with the dialog. Just keep in mind there is no need to capitalize characters once they are introduced. And be careful about typos. Overall I thought it was a nice story. If you do a rewrite I would expand on Ashley's reaction to meeting her father for the first time.

Matias Caruso (Level 5)

I thought that the reveal about Sam’s identity in the end was interesting. Unfortunately, this is the first interesting thing that happens in this script; you need to inject some earlier conflict to grab the reader. The previous scenes felt like filler for the most part.

Martha and Bill are characters that don’t help to move the story forward by any means. In screenwriting, what could be cut should be cut. Especially when dealing with such a restricted page count.

The ending could be an interesting starting point to tell a story. But there’s hardly any story in the events depicted before.

Hope this helps.

Micah Ricke (Level 4)

A few very minor grammatical errors, but overall; well written. Worked okay as a scene, but didn't work well as a complete story. I'd suggest eliminating all other characters from the story except Sam and Ashley. It's just between them. Everyone else is a distraction. Focus on them and you'll be able to expand and do more with the five pages you have and round out the story.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

I thought it was well written and the ending was tender but the script was a bit to tame for my tastes. The whole subplot about Bill's diet seemed about as bland as his meal. I'm not sure what I would suggest to beef it up a bit more but that home cooking small town thing just didn't work for me. I also thought that you should have foreshadowed that fact that Ashley did not have a father, this would have made the ending more effective. GOOD.

Paul Jaworsky (Level 4)

Let me get a couple things out of the way first.
I noticed the title deals with Christmas and am wondering if this is for the November contest. Then again, December is "No rules." Secondly, love the use of establishing. I have not seen it much but it is well-used in this story.
As for the story, it was great. The only thing I noticed that kinda drives me nuts is the bottom of page 1 has the character TOM and his dialogue is on the next page. I've heard that this also is a major no-no for execs who read scripts. I don't know if you use any kind of software or did this in Word, but I'd recommend some sort of screenwriting software. Otherwise, great job!

Rob Gross (Level 4)

good little story.

In my opinion, the story is a little wordy. There is dialog that is on the nose and some that is just unnecessary. I would try to eliminate some of the words that don't further the story.

I like the dialog between the Joe and Ashley. You were able to give the diner a small town feel with Bill and Martha.

Rustom Irani (Moderator)

Your setup is very much in the theatrical form rather than the film form. You describe the props and the setting, all the actors are in their places and then we have action.

It also isn't hard to put two and two together about Sam being Ashley's dad because we got the big clue about her being raised by a single mom.

Was it your intention to show us the cards? If so, then you have a nice little drama. If you don't reveal the fact about her being raised by a single mom then there's an element of mystery with what happens next. Is Sam a creep, someone who lost a loved one along time back...

Loved Bill and Martha. You reveal more about their characters through the banter they have with each other and I wish we could have more of that between Ashley and Sam. Maybe he leaves her money every christmas and she catches him this year, or She gets really angry at first and a letter saying he is sorry just isn't enough.

In short, I wanted a bit of conflict.

Your dialog's are fantastic.

Great title.

Write on.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

You've got a lot of great images in your script. I like the way you write, I can picture the whole scene in my mind.

The only thing that doesn't quite work for me is that the ending seemed a bit of a let down. I think this would be a great opening scene for a longer short film, or a feature, but as it is, it lacks the drama.

But as I said before, the writing is really well done, the dialogue snappy and not stilted at all.

The characters are really charming and I would love to see a rewrite, with just a little more conflict, or something. I can't put my finger on what it is, but there's something missing.

I gave it a VG, because I enjoyed the story and the way you write.

What I liked ...
I could relate to Ashley. I feel this is most important in a short script, that you identify and feel something for the protagonist. So that worked very well for me.

Spencer McDonald (Level 4)

Hmmph -- I had a a hard time with the story. It didn't seem to be going anywhere fast. This seemed more like a typical conversation in diner. No tension or suspense. Your saving grace was the very last block of action that summed up the why of this story. In, my opinion you could have gotten there faster and left room for more conflict or flaws.

Here is a piece of action that could be tightened up. "Joe’s Diner is a mom and pop restaurant from the 1950’s on the corner of Main Street. Tonight is a busy night and the place is fairly well packed with customers. A Christmas tree lights the front window near the cash register. An elderly couple, BILL and MARTHA, enters through the front door."

In your slug line you tell us this is Joe's diner, so you don't need to do it again. Maybe something like this,

"Christmas time.

"Something right out of the 1950's at the corner of Main and everyday life. A busy diner swarms with regulars.

A cute elderly couple, BILL and MARTHA, creep through the front door holding hands."

This slug line does not need to be here. We are already inside the diner. You might just say something like placement in the diner. Like this,


Through out the script you CAPITALIZE characters names. You only need to do this the first time you introduce them.

I would like to point out a key piece of dialogue that could have set up this script for the conflict. I had to read it twice because it was perfect and yet a missed opportunity.

Oh, yeah, that’s Sam. Sam Waldron.

What’s his story?

He used to live here about twenty years
ago, but then one day he just moved
away. Was a quiet boy back then. Kinda
kept to himself.

Why’d he move?

Don’t know. Some people just need a
change, I guess.

Just changing that last sentence may have made this script more powerful. Maybe you could have said something like, "Rumor has it he was running from something aweful." Ah the set up!

Over all this was just okay for me.

Sylvia Dahlby (Level 5)

This painted a very believable picture of the small town diner, small town characters, and the dialog was ok even if the story was weak. Considering the emotional potential of this piece, it fell way short of the mark. It actually reads like an excerpt from a larger work, the beginning of a story rather than a complete tale.

I needed a lot more emotional connection to Ashley grieving over the loss of her mom, some better set-up w/the dad (like maybe Sam actually has a conversation w/Ashley - get rid of the other diners and spend more time with the two main characters making a connection) to lead to a more dramatic climax and surprise when Ashley learns she's just met her dad. For example: Ashley converses with the stranger, he's come back to town, turns out he knew her mom, they have a lot in common & get to talking. He pays the bill and leaves, just as another one of the restaurant guys or patrons enters who actually recognizes Sam and knows he's Ashley's dad ... there are other ways this could play out and deliver the emotional punch you're going for.

Terence Ang (Level 3)

The pacing seems well thought out but the pay-off at the end could have been a little tighter. I'm not sure if the title is appropriate to the premise of the story but if it's a Christmas Special event, I guess it would make a great sequence in a TV show. Keep up the pacing and tighten the payoff.

Trevor Bryon (Level 3)

I liked the dialog. It was pretty convincing. The descriptions could easily be pared down a lot to get more white on the page and save some space/reading time.

Hardly original, of course, but what is these days. Better a simple thing done well, and you did it fairly well. Good job, keep at it!

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

This script has a lot of promise.

I love the "downhomeyness" (if I can make up my own word) of the story. It has a sweet lilt to it.

The dialogue is a bit too evident, give some subtext to the characters and their voices. You have some wonderful characters here, but try not to be repetitive with their words.

Ashley is a great protagonist, one we can easily root for and the secondary characters are likable as well. Add a few more visuals to make them pop -- example, BILL -- maybe he wears a hunting vest, and a CAT cap with a worn bill that he tugs every time he's reminded of the doctor's advice.

Great setting for a story of this nature.

William Coleman (Level 5)

At first I was put off by the lack of movement, but you did establish Sam as a presence, probably just a little slowly. I sensed something was coming - a stalker, a lost father? Gesturing him back in was a nice final touch. I liked that more than if he was long gone when she looked at the nore.

The dialog was real and filled with local color. Low keyed and effective.

William D. Prystauk (Level 5)

Some great dialogue for character distinction, but the ending doesn't work because there isn't an inkling at the setup that Ashley's completely on her own after her mom's death. If that came out in her initial conversation, the ending would pay off better. Furthermore, some of the exposition needs to be broken up to avoid giant blocks of verse. Proofreading would clean up some of the missing words and grammatical errors. In addition, once the character is introduced in caps, the characters can be typed normally afterwards. A solid rewrite should make this story shine much brighter. Just watch the title. Ham has symbolic implications of meaning "going over the top" with one's demeanor, and that's not what you're going for here.

Comments Made After the Contest

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 2/1/2008 1:21 PM

I really enjoyed this script a lot. I thought you did a great job of capturing the feel of a small town diner. I hope I get to read a rewrite of this.

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