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"Letters to Penthouse" by Chris Messineo ~ Second Place

Rewrite: 9/25/2007 12:00 AM

Logline: A writer, trapped by his own demons, lashes out at the only woman in his life.

Genre: Drama

Cast Size: 2

Production Status: Produced

Production Web Site: www.offstagefilms.com/LtP.htm

Contest: The Full Monty (Apr. 2007)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent
3%3%29%48%16%

Comments Made During the Contest

Aaron Williams (Level 4)

I was wondering where the gratuitous description might go.. and was happily surprised at the pay-off. Still might have been a little too long with such little real estate with which to work. The brutal language fits the brutal situation and man. The mouthing- sotto voce bit at the end is ok...maybe a little overdramatic...
Very interesting and nice flip for such short length.

Aimee Parrott (Level 4)

I'll be honest -- I was a little worried when I saw your title. I shouldn't have, though. I really like this. I love the dynamic between the two characters, and found John's angry rejection of Emily to be quite believable. Nice work.

Antonio Gangemi (Level 3)

John felt like a real person. I didn't want it to end. This might be an example where the 5-page limit may help hinder the establishment of a complete arc for the protagonist. We weren't able to see John change all that much in 5 minutes, but you knew there was a lot going on underneath the surface.

Bob McFarlane (Level 3)

If John is miserable, why is he smiling when there is a knock on the door? I thought it started a bit inconsistent but after that was very good. The characters seemed believable and I could feel John's frustration.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

Good work!

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

Having led a very sheltered life I was at first thinking that sending letters to a high-rise apartment was strange - or was Penthouse someone's name? When I worked out my error I was cookin' on gas!

It was a complete mixture of touching and distasteful to me which left me feeling confused - but I'm guessing that was the effect you desired. I just didn't like reading that stuff on the Kodak 6000. Sorry. Not me. Simply don't like it.

But that's not to say that this wasn't a good story - just not for me, because the sickness of it made me unable to appreciate it.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus)

This was really good, the poem in the typewriter surprised me and was a nice touch.

I felt that John's language/reaction to her reading the poem was a bit much and did not quite ring true to me, it all seemed rushed, but that might have been due to the five page limit. It also seems like her reaction of swooning over the poem when the guy just told her he hates her and to "f" off was a bit hard to accept (but that might just be me).

Still, great writing, a lot going on under the surface (as well as on its face.)

Don Riemer (Level 4)

Very well done. Tight, spare scene and action description, crisp dialogue, compelling story. Loved the reveal of the poem, though I feel cheated that we don't get to read or hear any of it. I think you owe it to your audience to at least let us hear a few lines. And I don't think John would have left this poem in the typewriter, where she might see it. Better to have it spill out of a folder or book in that tumbled over pile. Also, I don't understand Emily's ending emotion. The energy of the final beat feels off. It's not clear to me what she is feeling at that moment, or what she will do next. I'd like to see her take some action that suggests a change of direction. Even calling out to John "See you tomorrow," shows she's been affected by this poem. Nice work.

Ethelyn Boddy (Level 4)

No difficulty understanding these characters. A man, in love with his nurse and resentful of his infirmity, and the nurse who is overwhelmed by the situation--it makes a poignant moment.

James Holiday (Level 2)

great. just great. for personal reasons, I connected with john. the internal conflict was so choice. love it.

Jeremy Goodlander (Level 3)

Pretty damn good, wow, speechless, this was very good.

Julie Stewart (Level 3)

Great characters - a story of real pain and anguish. Your descriptions paint a great portrait of John, his life, his interests, his hopes and his frustrations (social and sexual).

There is something nicely dated about it as well - summed up simply by 'his classic Royal typewriter, it's keys worn from use.'

Emily needs something to do - especially on pages 2 and 3 - she could busy herself with washing pots, making tea/coffee maybe, putting clothes away ? She just seems to be standing there giving us a pair of talking heads. As she's rushed in late she would be busy.

I love their quiet, thoughtful moments (end page 3, top page 4) - the story could have gone anywhere from this point. I think that you subsequently took the characters in exactly the right direction. This is a beautiful story beautifully told.

Kevin M. Kraft (Level 2)

I was just disgusted. was the purpose of this script to disgust me?

Kirk White (Level 5)

this is hands down the best I've read so far. a masterpiece. truly lovely.

Kirsten Bischoff (Level 3)

Interesting. I like the way it twisted and turned. I never saw it coming - at first I was getting ready to say that I really thought the penthouse stuff was overkill - and that the guy was really to one dimensional but I like where you took it. I'm not entirely sure if I believe her reaction at the end - it's a little on the dramatic side - but I like what happened.

Larry Basch (Level 3)

Excellent. The depiction of John's frustration, his shattered masculinity and, most of all, his fear of rejection are very deftly handled. These are real people with real hurts and wants. There is even wit, something I have found surprisingly lacking in this round of scripts.

Lee Carlisle (Level 4)

I liked the script - interesting concept and it kept me guessing throughout. The ending came off as a bit cliche though. Otherwise very constant. I enjoyed it.

Liz Messineo (Level 4)

This seems like a script that needs to be more than 5 pages. I would love a little more background on each character. I'm interested in their relationship now and want to see where it goes.

Martin Lancaster (Level 4)

This was one of my favourites. Good story, very moving, great dialogue and excellent characterization in so few pages. Very well done.

Matthew Phillips (Level 4)

I believe John should be all in caps when we first see his name. This was a great way to include nudity, not sexual at all on the surface, but definitely posessing sexual undertones. I feel like it is tough to build up the necessary emotion in the viewer/reader in only five pages to make this ending pay off. By that I mean that this could be very powerful with a bit more build up. I needed to understand more about the relationship between the characters to be affected by it. This would make a powerful short film, I think it would have to be longer then five pages or five minutes. With more development the ending would pay off on a very deep level.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

This was underdeveloped. I didn't believe or understand the relationship between the two main characters.

Michael Thede (Level 4)

Loved the dynamic between John and Emily here, especially the way John masked his frustration and feelings for Emily by being unpleasant and crude. Thought that maybe it wasn't necessary for Emily to tell John that she'd seen the poem, as their fighting had already come to a head when he told her to leave. Might have worked just as well if Emily had simply read the poem and then left.

Nick Sidorovich (Level 3)

Nice dialogue, compelling situation, good twist, but all we know of the poem is that it is entitled "Emily". If the poem is supposed to motivate Emily to feel moved, we should be privy to at least some of its contents via either a visual or voice over.

Pia Cook (Level 5)

I liked this one. Thought it really showed John's pain.

Many years ago I worked in a hospital and I remember some people being very angry at their own situation and lashing out, when in reality they were just very sad.

I thought the writing was really well done and you had a beginning, middle and end.

Nice!!

Rich Keel (Level 4)

I enjoyed reading this. At first i thought he was a great novelist :) - i mean a perv. But then it's a poem to her. Love the charcters in this. i did call about halfway through it wasn't a letter to penthouse, but maybe everyone else did as well. Nice work!

Rick Hansberry (Moderator)

Not bad. I'm unsure why you chose to open over the city. I think starting at the apartment would give more time for interaction between the characters. I wouldn't state that John is a paraplegic. The wheelchair and actions speak for themselves. Some of the dialogue could be trimmed or modified. I expected more of cranky warmth from John instead of unabashed crassness. He's just plain mean and if he's always that way to her she wouldn't go out of her way to pick anything up for him on impulse. I like the switch about the poem and I thought the ending was a little forced, like it had to be squeezed in due to the page limit. I think a rewrite would make this a lot tighter if you're inclined. The nudity was there but barely implied depending on how this was shot.

Rustom Irani (Moderator)

Guess what are the odds of a young male paraplegic writer reading your script? Guess again coz' I am one.

Life on a wheelchair can get frustrating and especially when it comes to letting someone of the opposite sex know that you are attracted to them.

One thing that is not quite clear is how John came to be a paraplegic? Did he know what it was like to have a girlfriend and then he became a paraplegic?

If he was born a paraplegic then the ante is raised otherwise it might come across as physical/sexual frustration as well.

The liberal use of F-word sounds cliched and has been done in "My Left Foot" and "Forrest Gump" (Lt. Dane played by Gary Sinise.

Your dialog could lose those F words and still sound acidic if they are more witty, which is more the case with Emily.

You have also utilized the theme very nicely via the penthouse story and I admire your skills for that. The language in that piece of dialog is excellent. (How many Penthouse letters did you read...sorry...research.?)

Technically no minuses and you have a nice blend of the action and dialog. The pacing is excellent.

Great job.

All the best.

p.s. have Emily call me if things don't work out with john.

Spencer McDonald (Level 4)

I always love a good sarcastic character, especially one with a flaw. You did a good job of showing his flaw, and for that matter, her flaw also.

The story was good. If I had one comment it would be that I had to read the opening scene a few times to get it. Seemed we were outside and a typewriter was heard. Just seemed to confuse me. And my mind is easily confused.

Anyway, very tight. I liked it.

Spencer

Wes Worthing (Level 5)

I like this one. It leaves me wondering what's going to happen next. I felt sorrow for John. I could feel the anger you meant to show. I wouldn't state that he is a parapalegic, since you show us that later anyway. Very well written.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

I liked this script and feel that it can be a great short. Some ideas that popped into my head - John when introduced should be JOHN. What if John had his eyes on the clock, anxious, looking back and forth from his typewriter to his clock - all the while, pleased with what he was creating? He hits the return on his Royal, basking in his muse, but as the clock ticks by, there is no knock - John smiles disappears with each tick, until finally the knock... You're f***ing late?

I think John needs an emotional arc to really have the payoff work. He starts angry and stays angry. I'd like to see some softness from him outside of "head in his hands".

Again, just some ideas, I don't want to re-write the script, but just throwing it out there - you have a very strong base/story here. About Emily... what if she didn't remove the paper from the typewriter? What if she rolled the carriage and read line by line, rolling it back every now and again, the sorrow/joy/love apparent as she does this? Makes for a powerful visual in my opinion.

Solid script, I enjoyed it.

William Coleman (Level 5)

This is an original situation that is well developed within the confines allowed. Once in a while John's profanity seems forced. However, the main strength is his duality - sensitivity vs. frustration. This is nicely handled. However, I do have the qualification that except for a few needed close-ups - thew poem being one - this is basically a stage play in set in adjacent rooms. The real merit is the impossibility of John's life. That is a very human and touching situation.


Comments Made After the Contest

Kirsten Bischoff (Level 3) ~ 6/1/2007 12:14 AM

Congrats Chris! Well done. I'm wondering what you think about the suggestions for us to hear a line or two of the poem. I think that if you were to do that - you might null out the few of us who thought her reaction was a little on the dramatic side. I think - now that I read the suggestions to add in poetry - that would do it for me. I think if I were to hear some of the poem or even see a line or two - I would be right there with her emotionally for her reaction.

Great job!

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus) ~ 6/1/2007 12:24 AM

Fantastic Chris! Delighted for you to get the recognition you deserve. (Still think it was sick though!)

Martin Lancaster (Level 4) ~ 6/1/2007 1:18 AM

Congrats Chris! I had a feeling this one was yours.

Julie Stewart (Level 3) ~ 6/1/2007 5:42 AM

Congratulations - I'm so glad that this one did well.

Wes Worthing (Level 5) ~ 6/1/2007 6:24 AM

Congrats!

Rick Hansberry (Moderator) ~ 6/1/2007 6:47 AM

Chris, Great job! I wish you all the best with this script. Keep us posted if you decide to shoot it.

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 6/1/2007 6:57 AM

You made this paraplegic very happy. Glad it won. If you need any technical advice when and if you shoot let me know I can get the actor to method act a paraplegic role.

Also remember my point about him being paraplegic from birth or having met with an accident, because in the latter case he probably knew what walking was like and then lost that freedom.

Great job.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus) ~ 6/1/2007 9:04 AM

Congrats, Buddy - again. I get the prize for recognizing your fine work, however. Can't wait to see what you come up with next month.
And what is it with you and guys in bathtubs???

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 6/1/2007 9:14 AM

Thank you all so much for your wonderful comments. I need a couple of days to take it all in, but I wanted to respond to Rusty right away.

When I read your first sentence I was in shock. I had no idea you were paraplegic and I was very nervous to read on and find our what you thougt of my story. I can't begin to tell you how thrilled I am that you liked it. I tried very hard to create a real character and capture his pain. Your kind thoughts and insights mean a lot to me.

Matthew Phillips (Level 4) ~ 6/1/2007 9:32 AM

Chris you wrote some important characters here. Congratulations.

Aimee Parrott (Level 4) ~ 6/1/2007 9:42 AM

Chris -- congratulations! I really loved this script, and I had a feeling it was yours.

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 6/1/2007 10:53 AM

Its just that you never really draw attention to the characters disability but rather to something as frustrating as him trying to tell her something.

I am the most politically incorrect paraplegic I know, I don't even use the handicap parking, but I try and keep my swearing to deckhand level and not quite first mate.

And shooting stuff on a wheelchair really rocks coz' you have a really smooth dolly for those tricky shots.

Oh and you said something about not being able to write good log lines...have a look at this one folks, take a bow Mr. Messineo.

Pia Cook (Level 5) ~ 6/1/2007 1:29 PM

Hey Chris, nice to see you getting recognition finally.
I liked it and as I said earlier, I felt his pain.
Big Congratulations.

Rusty, you have a very nice positive attitude. I like it!

Pia

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus) ~ 6/1/2007 4:30 PM

Rusty, since you're not using that parking permit...

Nick Sidorovich (Level 3) ~ 6/1/2007 9:47 PM

Congrats, Chris. This could be a good one for you to shoot next. Nice, strong emotions in the piece. Bravo!

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus) ~ 6/2/2007 7:04 AM

Congratulations, Chris. Your bathtub is getting crowded.

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 6/2/2007 8:40 AM

Aah! Go break a leg Charlie. Wait! You being a pirate probably have a peg-leg stashed somewhere in your booty.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 6/4/2007 10:59 AM

I've had a chance to read all of the critiques a few times and think about them. They really are incredibly helpful.

When I wrote this it was the last day of the contest and my first draft came in at 6 pages and I ended up cutting some dialogue at the beginning and rushing through the end a bit to fit the 5 page requirement. So for those of you who felt the ending was a little abrupt, I agree and it should be fixed in the rewrite.

For those who mentioned wanting to see the poem, I respectfully disagree. I think the poem is a McGuffin and all you really need to know is that it moves Emily.

Rusty, I think John was in an accident that left him a paraplegic. He's cut himself off from the world and is still struggling to accept his new life.

I intend to expand this a bit, just a few more pages, but enough to add a little more humor and hopefully show the layers of John and Emily's relationship, so that the full impact of the poem feels more natural and powerful in the end.

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 6/4/2007 11:39 AM

Chris, being in an accident makes more sense than being a born paraplegic for John's character.

Looking forward to the rewrite.

Dino Barlaam (Level 3) ~ 6/4/2007 2:56 PM

congrats, Chris...

excellent job.

I agree, you don't really need to see the poem.

and, like Don's script, you too captured a great sense of emotion with your characters....and in turn easily pull on the strings of the audience/reader's emotions, and get us to care about them.

such a great script...definitely one of my faves of this contest thus far.

D.

Kirsten Bischoff (Level 3) ~ 6/4/2007 3:51 PM

Yes - I think that there is something in this script and in Don's script that I know actors would love the chance to play these roles. I sometimes forget that when I'm writing a short - that a lot of these if they will ever be filmed - really need people's passion behind them. And one good way to get that going is to write something that some unknown actor will look at and say - I could do so much with the nuances in that role. I think you and Don are really good at writing in that way. I wonder if it comes from your experiences as directors. That you create these interesting characters, and give just enough plot movement forward that they aren't crushed or lost by the surrounding story - just really blossom within it.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 6/4/2007 5:29 PM

If I have any talent at all with characters and dialogue, it comes from having been an actor. I always tell writers, if you ever get a chance to take an acting class you should.

Dino Barlaam (Level 3) ~ 6/5/2007 1:18 PM

Great points, Kirsten.

and Chris, I agree....as bad as I was as an actor, I truly enjoyed those experiences, and feel it has definitely helped my writing in many ways.

D.

Kirsten Bischoff (Level 3) ~ 6/6/2007 11:21 AM

NYU requires all writing students to take acting classes. It was the hardest class/lowest grade I ever got. Its like all of those people who think anyone can write a screenplay. I thought anyone could act. I thought wrong. And I should probably formally apologize to anyone who had to watch me on that damned stage! lol. It was sheer torture - and all I was doing was pretending to pick an apple out of a tree.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 6/6/2007 11:41 AM

If you ever get a chance to watch auditions for a film or play, I highly recommend it. When you see different actors try out for the same role and suddenly someone brings something new and nails it, it is really quite amazing, almost magical even.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus) ~ 9/25/2007 8:42 PM

Enjoyed the additions in the rewrite. Talking about the typewriter, going outside -- it gives more meat to the relationship angle for John and Emily. Well done there.

The only piece of dialogue that sticks out for me is the same line that did in the contest version. "I hate you." I just don't feel that John would say that to Emily, even with his miserable depression as a defense mechanism. I kind of feel the "GET THE FUCK OUT" is about how far he'd take it - possibly with "THAT WAS NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS!" before hand. "I hate you" doesn't feel organic for me.

All the other dialogue really flows and feels real and sincere. Excellent job, and I also like the imagery at the end as well, with the traffic and sky.

None of the following comments matter, just some information from experience. Emily's excuse of, "Too many patients to see..." struck me as odd in that home health care workers work for one or two patients a day and are grossly underpaid, at that (unless they are visiting nurses). I do computer work in the home health care field, and have been doing so for a lot of years. Maybe the crosstown bus broke down? Or the subway was running late? Just food for thought -- we could see Emily's hard time as well.

I also have a good friend who unfortunately became a quadriplegic last summer. Although his depression was deep and lasted several months, he's doing very well now, back in school and counseling youths in his position. I only bring this up, and not that it matters, but why is John so miserable? Is it due to not being able to walk or is it more than that?

Excellent rewrite and good luck with it. I look forward to seeing the film.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 7/28/2008 12:48 PM

It's been a long-time since I first wrote this but I just wanted to add an update to let everyone know this has been filmed and will premiere on September 6, 2008.

You can find out more here: www.offstagefilms.com/LtP.htm

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 1/23/2009 10:42 PM

I just found out tonight that "Letters to Penthouse" will be showing at the "Love Actually II" Film Festival in NYC on Saturday, February 14th.

You can read more about the show here: www.scenepr.com/love-actually-2.html

Rustom Irani (Moderator) ~ 1/24/2009 4:05 AM

The theme for the festival is perfect for "Letters to Penthouse".

I just wish they'd selected a better shot for the thumbnail.

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 1/24/2009 8:38 AM

"I just wish they'd selected a better shot for the thumbnail."

I agree, but I'm so excited they chose our film I can forgive them. :)

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus) ~ 1/24/2009 11:13 AM

Congratulations -- I happen to like the thumbnail. Loved the shot in the movie, so it works for me.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus) ~ 1/26/2009 11:41 AM

Missed this post somehow. Fantastic news!

Tommy Merry (Level 4) ~ 1/29/2009 12:03 AM

Hi Chris, I like the Thumbnail that they used. Its intriguing :-)
Break a leg!

MJ Hermanny (Level 5) ~ 2/24/2009 5:31 PM

Chris, how did this fair at the Valentine's Festival?? Is it available to view online yet?

Chris Messineo (Founder) ~ 2/25/2009 8:06 AM

Thanks for asking. The festival was wonderful, a really impressive collection of films. The Q&A afterwords with the audience was a lot of fun. We ended up meeting many other filmmakers and actors and our film was invited to screen at another festival. I can see how going to these festivals could become addictive.

Our film will still be screening at a few more festivals, so I don't think it will available online until this summer or fall.

Kevin Carty (Level 4) ~ 2/25/2009 9:47 AM

I liked it alot, wow i like the dialog exchange between the two seems real. However, I'm kind of confused about the first scene and the description of the characters. It is a wonderful concept of the cantankerous cripple, lashing out at the only person that seems to see him for more than he thinks he can be. Its a refreshing love story that actually has a message.


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