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"Berenice" by Pete Barry ~ Honorable Mention

Rewrite: 11/15/2010 12:00 AM

Logline: A man suffering from a rare psychological fixation disorder recounts the tragedy of the woman who loved him. (Revised script entitled "Focus".)

Genre: Drama - Horror - Romance - Thriller

Cast Size: 4

Production Status: Produced

Production Web Site:

Contest: Poetic License (May. 2008)

Contest Scores
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Comments Made During the Contest

Adam Grage (Level 4)

I liked this piece. I wasn't familiar with the original but it does have a Poeish (if that's a word) feel. The idea of the vibriant colors attracting Allan was a great way to visualize his obseesive behavior. But, once we get to where Allan sees her teeth and knew that it would drive him insane--but it was done well.

The one thing which put me off alittle was the gibberish spoken by the Doctor, roommate etc. I might suggest putting something in there which clarifies why they aren't understood.

A good piece though overall

Adrienne Jorgensen (Level 4)

There are a lot of solid moments in this script. I think the focus and colors would work really well on a screen. The voice over weaving in and out of the real-time story telling seemed to move the story along nicely; it's well structured. It feels a little on the nose at spots. You might consider giving Allen something more emotionally specific when he's telling his account. He never seems at all upset about killing Bernice, but he does seem to legitimately care about her & is upset to see the teeth.

There is that little magic something that I'm missing, though. I think it has to do with the ending. I wasn't quite clear what motivated Allen to break it off with Bernice. Was he attached to his fascination with objects more than he was her? I got the impression that it was actually a good thing that he was able to walk away from the watch, but then he had it later and wanted to stop seeing the gal. Maybe you could show him going back for the watch, saying something (not entirely direct, perhaps) about his compulsion to have it.

I'm wondering if we need Allen to be breaking it off with Bernice at all. I haven't read the story, so maybe that's an integral part of the original...if so, I'd like to know more about why it's happening.

The teeth falling to the floor makes a really dramatic exit, but I'm not entirely sold on what takes us there. How does the roommate already know that Bernice is dead? How did this guy make it home after murdering Bernice? He doesn't have to know, but I'm not sure you can get away with the audience not having some kind of hint.

Ali Barr (Level 4)

Excellent! So much story in just five pages and yet written so lean and mean as well. Very disturbing, I really enjoyed the blurry dialogue. You had some humor, some of the curious and strange, and definitely the depraved.

What an awful thing he did and yet you succeeded in making Allan a sympathetic character.
That shows real craft. So icky, yet can't stop reading it.
Great job. This was an intense read, perhaps my favorite this month.

Ammar Salmi (Level 5)

Know what? when I got to the part when his friend tells him that she is dead, I really didn't want to keep reading. That was scary. I knew he got her teeth in the box. Oooo, my skin got pointy at this point. The ending was the saddest thing I've ever read or watch. And that was cool. No one can blame you for the ending. It's your choice. I just would recommend a better ending if you ask. Something like, after Allan finishes telling his story to the doctor, the doctor blue eyes start glowing in Allan's eyes. Wouldn't that be great, as an open ending :D. One thing really disturbed me in your script, using many all-caps words. As I said in a previous comment all-caps words are a very restricted technique in screenwriting. You can't just throw them for every color in your story. Color are important in your story, I know, yet I think that you have overused them.
One more thing, We have seen Berenice and Allan smiling at many occasions. This made them looks kind of stupid to me. That's just me I guess.
Good Luck

Audrey Webb (Level 5)

I think you did a really great job of moving the story into the present and giving it a much more cinematic and visual presentation that the original story. My only suggestion would be to actually write out the sentences that are now mumbled and include a note that these words should be muffled. It's difficult for a reader, actor, or director to decipher what it is that should be played through those sentences as they are now written.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

I enjoyed this adaptation. I think it'd play very well on the screen. Nice work.

Briant Weylin (Level 3)

Berenice is a contemporary take on the short story by Edgar Allen Poe.

It appears as though you had an in depth vision for this while you were writing it, and though I understand much of your script occurs in the past (retelling the story to the DOCTOR) I think there may be a number of readers that find this piece confusing. I understand your use of voice over (and I suspect you may be beat up for it) so I'll just say I believe its best use in a similar flim would be to just lead us into the past tense story as oppose to walking us through it. No doubt this could be a great short film, but its hard to follow on paper (I'll need to take a look at similar films to see how they do it because I like the style myself).

You break a number of conventions, though I suspect most of these liberties were necessary to portray your story. I do want to note I personally felt awkward about this line:

ALLEN: Now, I had never taken anything. My desire was always to observe, not to possess.

Technically it makes a good transition from just observing to actually taking (necessary to reach the climax were Allen is taking Berenice's teeth), though the original and to a degree, your own script, leads us to believe that his obsession is out of his control:

ALLEN: Whereas I will find certain objects...I can’t stop looking at them. Listening to them. They capture my attention completely.

It may not have been that important if it wasn't such a pivotal point in your script. I found this piece to be well written and overall, well done. If you'd like to look at this further feel free to shoot me an email,
Good luck and keep writing,

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Gwa nun? Noom? Ollon? Wrr mo yuh? She's dud? - I'm afraid the use of this device just took me straight out of what was proving to be a very good story. I'm imagining that you used these strange words to denote Allan's descent into madness, his total absorption in whatever it was he was concentrating on? Whatever the case, it didn't work for me as a reader.

The other thing that stood out and made the read distracting was the frequent use of capitalisation. I like to read the story, not have things jump out and smack me in the face!

I am pondering about the use of V/O and thinking it might have been overdone.

Otherwise, I thought this was very good!

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus)


This is a winner. Excellent job with the material and making it your own.

Would love to see this made.

Flawlessly executed.

Sorry I can't give comment for improvement, wouldn't change a thing.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

Wonderful imagery.

I love how you draw us in to this tale and share with us the details that matter. I felt like I was in Allan's head. Which was very cool and creepy.

I liked the idea that Allan, barely hears those around him, but I think actually writing what they say as mumbles is a bit distracting. Also, the ending felt a little abrupt (damn, that 5 page limit).

Still, this was very good and with a small rewrite, I think it would be excellent.

Dan Delgado (Level 5)

(Note: My comments are probably more subjective than objective.) An interesting story. Good pacing. Done well.

Dan Lennox (Level 5)

This was a solid adaptation, and I enjoyed reading it. I thought you did a very good job in condensing such a lengthy story down to a 5 page short. You were able to reveal a lot of information just through the dialogue between Allen and his Doctor that could have taken far longer using other means.

One small issue that stuck out was with Allen's roomate. He just sort of appeared with no introduction. That in itself is not really a big deal, but it was how he spoke. Perhaps by making a small introduction of this minor character, you could mention that he has a speech problem. I took me a few moments to hook on to this and thus killed the pace at a very critical point in the story. Letting your reader know this small bit if info could prepare them for what is to come. Like the awkward dialogue.

Aside from that small issue, good job!

Kirk White (Level 5)

sounds like someone's been doing mushrooms!!! Very solid (and a little gross!) script! One of the best i've read so far! Giving a very good

Lewayne White (Level 4)

Creepy and shocking. Very Poe. Good job.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

I don't recognize this work, but I liked it very much. When I'm reading a script I prefer to have your term "black" to be written "FADE TO BLACK." Keeping the form standardized keeps the flow smooth. When I read "black" the first time I skipped a beat in the story. Very minor problem. Very nicely done.

Marla Brecheen (Level 4)

This one kind of reminded me of "Tell Tale Heart" except it wasn't an eye that caused the problems, the teeth. I thoroughly enjoyed reading and wondered why when the doc and the roommate taughted it he wasn't hearing right, but everything was well written.

Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5)

I read the original story, but I just didn't get this. What was wrong with his roommate? And what was up with that doctor? Why did you distort their dialog? And where did the ADD fit in?

I think this was a vague adaptation and I just didn't understand it. The original focussed on his beautiful cousin who ended up getting very ill and then buried alive. I know these adaptations can be interpretations but this was too far off the mark for me.

Matias Caruso (Level 5)


Dark and disturbing. Quick, easy read. No major complaints.

One little nitpick, the ending was a bit predictable. I wish you found a way to set up his obsession with her teeth without giving away the pay off. Maybe if you are a bit more subtle about this angle and if you set it up a bit earlier... it could come as a surprise at the end.

I hope you place.

Michael Thede (Level 4)

This was good. I liked the way the element of the mumbled dialogue connected to the discovery of the teeth in box at the end. It was a good transition from his fixation on the objects to his momentary positive fixation on Bernice, which then got twisted into something horrible when he saw her teeth – I can definitely appreciate seeing a beautiful woman and then noticing some aspect about her that becomes repulsive (nose hair, for example :) ). Good work!

Neal Barringer (Level 0)

the storyline seems like Poe. I checked against the original work; the ebony box (the property of the family physician) is introduced way too early in your piece. And, you painted it purple for some reason.

Berenice is Allen's cousin; your piece hints there is a love connection there.

Regarding formatting, I believe characters need an age designator when they're introduced. I had no sense of character ages until Page 5 when Allan returns to his dorm room.

Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)

It's a great story and you've set it up well. I'd suggest seeing more of the title character and I think you could build more tension and uncertainty around the terrible truth at the end.

Ron Blizzard (Level 0)

Well written. It took a bit to get used to the voice over, but once I realized what you were doing, it worked well. Ending was strong. Good pacing and dialog.

Rustom Irani (Moderator)

Fantastic adaptation!

A few scenes transition to the white room with immediate dialog and I wish we could see a glimpse of him/his face as narrates.

The white room wouldn't happen to be a padded room?

I wish to know what he is currently focussed on as well.

Still the best adaptation so far.

Should place.

Scripts like these make it a pleasure to critique.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

This was wonderful! I loved what you did with the adaptation. I like your style of writing, easy to follow and visually great.

Cool ending, cool setting with him telling the doctor what was happening, as we see the visuals.

Very nice!

Stephen Brown (Level 5)

When it changes to NIGHT I think you should have done a new slugline. Just my opinion.

I think you did a pretty good job with this one. Nothing really to pick up on that confused me or drew me out of the story. Nothing really that stood out for me either. VERY GOOD.

Stephenie Ruffin (Level 4)

I thought this was a great adaptation of Poe's short story. There were a couple of typos but nothing major. The only problem I had was when the Doctor and his roommate spoke. The story flowed so smoothly and easily up until those points, I had to stop and reread, then continue. I thought the story was so good, I felt that when those two spoke, it interrupted the story. If the jumbled words were of some meaning to the story, then I missed it and I appologize. (Very Good)

Sylvia Dahlby (Level 5)

Good job. I forgave this tale many sins because it well and truly creeped me out. I am not familiar with the original tale, so you could say this crept up on me. The visuals were interesting and I was wondering were it was going. I don't normally enjoy VO and excessive narration (which many of the Poe submissions contain, call it poetic license), but the TEETH really got me. I'd suggest getting to the teeth sooner, have a strange & compelling smile haunt Allen from the get-go to improve the set-up and horrifying conclusion.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

A different choice, well done and methodical -- images and story were vivid and tight. I enjoyed the adaptation and thought the pace and reveal had a tranquil rhythm.

Very well done.

William Coleman (Level 5)

While I enjoyed your script, I felt that there was more important things in Poe's story that you could have mined. Also missing to me was a total Poe feeling. Keeping it in period would have helped with that. Even so, you writing is vivid and the story moves along nicelty. Some of your images are so strong that they stand out from more mundane moments. Stylistic consistency requires well honed writing. It isn't easy, but you came close.

William D. Prystauk (Level 5)

Fast out of the gate and intriguing. Some great dialogue and technique. The ending, however, left me feeling cheated. It seemed too abrupt and should have been left with Allan's words. At times, there was awkward phrasing: "They look at the pair of their works. He shrugs, she beams at him. Her smile is infectious, and he grins, too." Also, limit verbosity because there is no need to mention "the hand": "He reaches a hand towards it." If the ending can mirror the impact of your intelligent beginning, this will be a winner.

Comments Made After the Contest

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 7/1/2008 12:36 AM

I really liked this piece and it was the only excellent I gave out. Do write more scripts. Loved the style.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus) ~ 7/1/2008 5:11 AM

I also really enjoyed this script. Well done, indeed!

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 7/1/2008 9:21 AM

Great story. One of my favorites.

In fact you've had two wonderful entries in a row. I'm so glad you found MP.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus) ~ 7/1/2008 2:25 PM

I cannot believe this did not place. It had to be right up there. I thought this work was outstanding. Great imagination and great writing. Personally, I'd take getting Rusty's only excellent as a victory in and of itself.

Audrey Webb (Level 5) ~ 7/1/2008 7:40 PM

This script really stood out for me. I couldn't get it out of my mind. Very well done!

Erin Arbogast (Level 3) ~ 6/22/2009 10:00 PM

Berenice has never been one of my favorite Poe stories, but I love your adaptation! Is this script still up for grabs?

Robert Newcomer (Level 4) ~ 11/10/2010 11:34 PM

This is really good. Great use of color -- excellent, even, in parts -- and very visual. I liked the story quite a bit. A satisfying pay-off, which one does not always find in these five-pagers.

One thing, though. I did find the mumbled words from everyone but Allan very annoying to read -- it really slows you down to have to stop and interpret -- and I still am not even sure what "noom" is supposed to mean. It will probably be fine on film, granted, but it is not a technique I would advise using again in written form.

Otherwise, no complaints. Look forward to seeing what you and Martin can cook up.

Jordan Mitchell (Level 1) ~ 1/2/2012 7:48 PM

An Edgar Allen Poe based screenplay. You did very well, the story gave me a shock with the ending but that is one of the most ironic things in this man's writing and you writer had the ability to posses that into your own. Good job

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