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"The Storyteller's Trunk" by John Brooke

Rewrite: 10/28/2008 12:00 AM

Logline: A Fully Loaded Portmanteau In Search Of Listeners

Genre: Comedy - Drama

Cast Size: 10+

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

Contest: INT. ATTIC - DAY (Jul. 2008)

Contest Scores
PoorFairGoodVery GoodExcellent
5%46%27%20%2%

Comments Made During the Contest

Aaron Williams (Level 4)

I have to confess, I really don't get this. I love the imagary-- the thayer character is compelling, interesting- I think I fell in love with Liala as well-- but I don't understand what's going on. My own shortcoming, I'm sure, but I think a trifle more clarity would be immensely helpful. There seems to be some incongruity as well-- he recounts the stories of the box, then we have one lone flashback, which doesn't turn out to be very relevant-- what about having Laiala appear again as an old woman? I don't know.. I'm not even sure where to suggest the story go as I really don't get it enough.. sorry..

Adam Grage (Level 4)

I would suggest familiarizing yourself with screenplay format. You make reference to offstage which is a term for plays not movies.

The extended conversation between Thayer and Isadore would have more of an impact if it was actually visualized and not just two guys talking. Show us what Thayer did not have him just tell us. You don't need all the transitions they are distracting and will be handled in the shooting script

The dream is interesting but cut the smells. No one will see that one screen so it is lost in the translation to screen when people will be watching this.

I think you have a good idea here but it needs work and proper format correction to look better on the page.

Bill Delehanty (Level 4)

Never heard of turtle soup before. I'll have to check it out. The story lost me as it went sorry to say. At the end I wasn't too sure if he was really sick/dying, as he jump out of bed. I also couldn't figure why that dancing sequence was used. Maybe I missed something along the way.

Brian Wind (Level 5)

There were some massive chunks of description that need to be broken down considerably. The character introductions were not proper. The story itself seemed a little scattered with too many bit characters and too much jumping around. The story wasn't bad but the ending lacked punch. Overall, a decent effort, but one thatcould be greatly improved upon with a couple rewrites.

Caroline Coxon (Mod Emeritus)

I liked this story a lot. It was spirited! It reminded me of Scheherazade.

Small points - it's customary to capitalise the name of a character the first time it's mentioned. It's not necessary to use the CONTINUEDS at the top and bottom of the pages. It's best to keep your descriptive passages to maximum 4 lines. People glaze over at great chunks of text and generally don't bother to read it.

Having said that, I loved the way you moved from the zill into the dream sequence. long though that was.

Great job.

Charlie Hebert (Mod Emeritus)

Bravo, very well done.

This piece was quite captivating and very well written. Really like the characters and got into the flashback.

Would have liked a little more of it tied to Liala, since you spend so much time with her.

The ending is a bit perplexing and somewhat of a letdown. Although it is entertaining, it feels like it dropped off to nothing. Is he not sick then?

Anyway, I still enjoyed this one very much, think it's got great potential this month.

Chris Messineo (Founder)

There are moments here that are quite fantastic. Some of your descriptions are poetry (my highest compliment). However, there are also moments that read like prose and make this a slow read.

Mostly, I love the characters and the dialogue, which is rich, layered, and fun to read.

You have a gift for words and I think if you can tighten the story a bit or at least quicken the pace this could be very good.

Dawn Calvin (Level 5)

I really liked the spirit of this script. I enjoyed the people and the places. The description was a bit over the top sometimes, kind of felt "novelly", but I enjoyed it just the same.

The "junk in the trunk" felt out of place for this script. Maybe it was not intentional, but I would get rid of it. The Slang does not suit the story or add anything to it.

Very good.

Elias Farnum (Level 5)

That's more of a tagline under your title, than a logline, and knowing what a portmanteau refers to, well, helps. Pretty cool then.

I wouldn't use OFF STAGE for a screenplay.

The second scene heading is confusing, is it a split view? Your descriptive paragraphs should be limited to three or four lines at the most. Large paragraphs are reading novelesque. I must say the flowery prose is pretty cool, but only for a novel.

The dialogue is a lot of exposition, a lot of just telling without any tension to drive it. I like the camber of the language, like I'm in the 1800's or listening to the Seinfeld character, J Peterman, but, well, there's just too much of it.

I didn't really get a whole story here. Three basic parts - a setup, hook, and resolution - If you trimmed it down, you could get him to sea for the resolution.

You definately have a storytellers mind, but you need to visualize everything and keep it tight. I would suggest reading the screenwriters bible. Plus here are a few immediate resources that I hope you will find helpful.

http://www.ibiblio.org/cdeemer/specscript.htm (on spec script writing)

http://www.ibiblio.org/cdeemer/Essays.htm#screen (pick a subject)

(Here is a thread from our very own MP boards - very helpful indeed.)
http://www.moviepoet.com/reply.aspx?thread=1078&forum=1&search=lessons

(Throwing in a glossary too)
http://www2.austincc.edu/sbramme2/Glossary.htm

I equate screenplay writing to "deconstructing" the novel, or short story. Breaking everything down into smaller components, making them visual and precise. Saying something in the action like, "intimately by body language," is too vague. Although I know what body language is, it needs to be more specific, I need to see exactly what is happening.

Ok then, muévalo.

Erenik Beqiri (Level 3)

Not a fan of this script. But i like the idea, that Jim will live for how many stories he has in his trunk. I liked that. Plus i think you need to tighten a paragraph in page 3.

Erich VonHeeder (Level 4)

This is very ambitious story for five pages, and I like that! It's hard though, because the spine of the script is this man who has a TON of stories that he wants to tell, an amazing life full of adventures...and we get a glimpse into ONE of those stories. I think if you're going to do that then you need to really highlight why this is the one story by which all the other stories are judged, the big one, the one that makes his eyes light up unlike any other...and I just don't think that connection was made (don't get me wrong, I agree that the "girl of my dreams" story would be the one that would stick with him, but the story ended up being something of a one-nighter, and we really didn't see him affected by the telling of it...when it was over he moved right on...)

I guess I wanted to see a little more of Thayer's opinion of his life as a whole. Not just "look at all these stories", but more of "this was my life and it was (a) so great or (b) unfulfilling and this is why..." You came close to delivering that opinion on a few occasions, but never really made it the centerpiece of the script.

Ian Wills (Level 2)

I liked the dialogue between TLK and Izzy, worked well and had a charm. The general idea was good too. I don't know exactly what I was expecting for an ending but I was left a little unsatisfied for some reason. Good work.

John LaBonney (Level 4)

I'm not really big on dream sequences, and I think too much of the example of one of Thayer's adventures is told through this device. I liked the style of the dialog; it struck me as fun and unique. I was half-expecting him to drop dead at the end as he got overexcited.

Jon Hill (Level 4)

The screenplay’s too wordy at times and written like a book. You’ll scare off any potential readers /buyers who give it a skim through.

It feels more like the pilot episode for a television series, rather than a self contained story. Okay, there is a single story in here (Thayer and the Belly Dancer) but it’s about two pages maximum and rather rushed.

Kathleen Clevenger (Level 4)

I think your idea would work better if you had more scenes like the Morocco dream sequence, and less telling of the story by Thayer. It doesn't help that the actual trunk is in the attic. As the reader/audience, we can't even see the items he is describing. I thought the dream sequence was very visual and exciting, however. Nice.

Kenneth Hurd (Level 4)

This one had a lot of formatting issues. The paragraphs of action are a bit too long. Try to limit them to four lines each, after that, give us a new paragraph. When you introduce a character, make sure the name is in all caps and the description is separated by either a comma or a parenthesis. For example: ISADORE (Thayer's main man) is in attendance.

At the end of each page and beginning of the next, you don't have to put Continued. When you are continuing a conversation, just put (CONT'D) instead of writing out (CONTINUED).

There is also a lot of description that will be impossible to portray on film. When writing a script, just tell us what we see. We don't need to know what the character is feeling. You use a phrase "His heart is beating a fandango caused by her closeness, not the exertion of fighting." That line belongs in a novel, not a screenplay.

Lastly, your headings don't need to mention a character. Instead of saying "INT. THAYER’S DREAM MOROCCO - NIGHT - RABAT CASBAH" just say "INT. MOROCCO - NIGHT" then, in the action introduce Rabat Casbah.

Just work on formatting the script properly and I think you'll be able to make this story work.

Kirwin Sullivan (Level 2)

Good job. Great dialog. Good description. The story slightly lacked depth, but for 5 pages...great.

Laureen Muller (Level 4)

The concept was good and could make a great short; your descriptions read like a book and not a script. You were describing each character, each scene as if we would always have to visualize it in our minds, not see it on the screen. Shorten your scene descriptions and your actions. You are the writer not the director, they will take care of the details, unless they are crucial to the story line (i.e. has to be a blue jacket? Or a ring sits on the table, etc.). The dialog was inconsistent and in parts unnatural. We go from a burial at sea because he is so sick to the statement that “you will live until you tell each story…” which is it? What was the purpose of the DREAM (THAYER’S DREAM MOROCCO)? Was it a memory or a dream? Why tell it, to what purpose of the story? We are talking about the memories in the trunk and spend more time on a dream why? Ending was cute, if we continued on with the trunk stories, but has not purpose after the dream. What reason do you have for telling us that we are directly under the trunk? This can be eliminated, as it does not impact the story.

Leigh Fenty (Level 3)

You have a very nice way with words. I found some problems with your formatting, but all in all a pretty good effort.

Lewayne White (Level 4)

Not sure about the end conversation with the doctor... But, in general an interesting story.

Margaret Avnet (Level 4)

I wouldn't put the date on the title page. It "dates" the script. Also you neglect to capitalize the characters when first introduced. And I wouldn't use dissolved, I'd leave that up to the director. You have a good sense of the descriptive, though I would break it up a bit when you are in the casbah.

Margaret Ricke (Level 5)

This is PDG.
You have some spelling errors, but they aren't terribly important.
Your character development is outstanding.
Your dialogue couldn't be much better.

Nice work.

Marnie Mitchell Lister (Level 5)

The best part of this story, IMO, is the dialog. Really good. The story itself was entertaining enough, not sure how the dream sequence fit it or why it was important. I liked all the "junk in his trunk" and the stories that went with them. I would have liked to have more of that, more on who Thayer was. Was he an actor? How was he able to do all of these things? If I knew him more I think I'd be happier for him in the end.

The writing was good although wonky in some places. There were also several large blocks of narrative that need to be broken up. That will help the pace of your story.

"Turns looks offstage, dismissing his O.C. chauffeur and the freight company’s delivery man." If these two men are Off Camera, how do we know who they are? You have to show us, not just tell us.

Martin Jensen (Level 5)

A lot of the descriptive sentances were fragmented. That can make action more punchy, but overusing it tends to just confuse me. A lot of it sounded more like prose writing rather than the conventional screen-writing style. (Also, someone wouldn't look 'offstage' if they were in a film.)

The story also confused me slightly. Him dying when he ran out of stories was a good idea, but then why would he tell all his stories to other people? Surely the more slowly he told them the longer he would live? I'm just not sure.

That's the problem. There's too much description, but not enough clarity. For that reason, I feel I can't honestly rate your script, as I'm not sure what's going on.

Matias Caruso (Level 5)

This one has a cool Big Fish vibe.

The main conflict (the protagonist’s terminal disease) is quite interesting, but unfortunately it’s introduced in the last page.

I’d suggest to open with this angle. Establish the main conflict right away. And then focus on how the protagonist deals with it.

It’s very hard to tell a story in just five pages. Make every line count. Get rid of small talk (i.e. turtle soup).

On a technical note, I think that dropping some “unfilmables” here and there can really enhance a script, but I felt like you crossed the line with lines like “Overpowered by the perfume of jazmines flowers”. Not a chance to see that on screen unless you shoot this with smell o vision.

I like the premise. But I think it needs a tighter execution with more focus on the main conflict.

Michael Cornetto (Level 5)

I liked the idea for this. A continuing series of stories from items in a trunk. And he has to keep telling them in order to stay alive, sort of like Sherezade. The only problem here is that this should be a standalone story but it reads like the beginning to a much larger story. And though you wrote some very nice prose - I think you went a bit overboard at times with your descriptions. Lastly, I didn't think you identified all that well with the characters you were writing about. Just something about them that didn't ring true to me. Also, why would a chauffeur be hanging out in this guys bedroom.

Michael Leath (Level 3)

There is just so much about this story I like. The visual is impeccable. I was in the casbah with the couple. I could see the fight for her honor caused by dropping her veil.

Yet there are aspects of this tale that bothered me. The story read like a novel. A textured and entertaining novel. But this is a script writing contest none-the-less. So that detracted from the story.

Some of the punctuation was incorrect. A heroic...not an.

But all-in-all that still didn't take away from the story.

I believe the ending is where I was lost. I understand he has many tales and wants to tell them. I understand his telling these will require him to not take the voyage across the River Stix.

But something about the ending felt forced. It just lost its hold on me.

I think you write well. I enjoyed this. Yet I am not sure I can put my finger onn exactly why this left me a little cold. Because I did enjoy the main character so much. And the voice of the piece was maintained throughout.

It just missed the target for me.

Michael Rome (Level 4)

Pretty good page turner. I especially like your talent for description, and thought the following line was especially funny: "A couple of fez wearing males looking like enraged Shriners, gang-up on Thayer."

In the dialogue, I thought you over used ellipses (...) , to the point of being a little distracting.

Overall, nicely done.

Patrick Sweeney (Level 4)

Interesting premise of an old man with a trunk full of mementos & memories.

Several format issues. Overuse of parentheticals to dialogue. Not necessary to put (CONTINUED) on each of the protagonist's lines, I suggest just saying once in action text "Thayer continues speaking, ignoring Isadore's questions" if that's what you are trying to get across. Odd word choices, 'lascivious sleep?' Dream sequence is heavily overwritten - remember, if the viewer can't see it or hear it on the screen, it doesn't go in the screenplay. Scene headers are overlong. How does the director show the bedroom is directly under the trunk? Story seems slight, with very little payoff. I suppose the dream is just an illustration of his many memories, except the care, time, & effort put into it make it seem more significant - significance which is never paid off. The doctor's prognosis doesn't make a great deal of logical sense.

Paul Williams (Level 5)

Man, it might be just me, but I'm on page two and having a hard time reading this, with the formatting issues, typos, writing style, etc. Let me dive back in...

I'm sorry, I'm gonna have to return to this another time...

I battled through this a week or so later with pretty much the same results.

Philip Whitcroft (Level 5)

Overall this is an interesting idea. You have rendered it in a non-standard format although that's not the end of the world because I certainly got a clear picture of what you have in mind.

The biggest issue I have here is with the Arabian Nights style dream sequence. I've never had a dream in which I go to sleep and wake up the next morning and it all happened in a dream. If you are using a dream sequence as opposed to a flashback it is difficult to push it beyond one scene. I'd suggest sticking with the story telling element.

Actually I'd propose the following sequence. He starts story telling but in his excitement has a medical problem. People gather around to listen as he continues. They become wrapped up in the stories and that includes the Doctor who arrives in the middle. Then you can got with the finish you currently have.

"Turns looks offstage"! You have busted yourself converting a theatrical piece for the screen!

Isadore needs an ISADORE introduction. Actually I missed the fact that THAYER LIAM KINGSMILL did not get one either. While I'm on formatting things, the scene headings are unconventional, you don't need Continued on each page, there are some very long action blocks

When is this set? The reason I ask is I'm having trouble imagining someone being old enough to have seen "route 66 when it was just a dirt track".

"His heart is beating a fandango caused by her closeness, not the exertion of fighting." This is an example of a line that would be very difficult to catch on film although an actor might be able to work with it.

Pia Cook (Level 5)

I found this story to be interesting and appreciated reading something that took place somewhere besides the US or UK. It did read a little too much like a novel however. I'm referring to the part in Morocco especially. That's a big chunk of text there that not only describe things that can be shown on film, such as someone's thoughts, but it also slows down the read a lot.

I would suggest breaking that up into correct scenes headings and trimmer descriptions.

Sally Meyer (Moderator)

Wowzer.....As my grandson says, 'Oh mine word!'


This was a great story, ripe with color, scents and visions, I loved it. I love Thayer Liam Kingsmill and his trunk and his adventures.
Awesome, well written, fun, entertaining!!

Well done, I am sure this will win or place!

Sasha Clancy (Level 4)

I like the way you create your scenes visually. I could really smell and see what you were describing. I could see this becoming a longer story as you tell more about his life and the things in his trunk.

Spike McKenzie (Level 1)

Dialog felt like I was watching (or reading) a stage play, not reality.

Stan Askew (Level 3)

No doubt lots of folks will point out that you have quite a lot of descriptions which can't be filmed, such as Thayer's heart beating, unless of course you actually want to film that pulsing organ, or have the heartbeat on the audio, which is unlikely. But I'm not one of those people. Descriptions that aren't exactly filmable, such as the smell of incense, help tell the story.

I thought this was told quite well but it didn't pan out as well as I thought it might. Could be improved greatly if you had a character other than the doctor, a wizard-type guy, who . . .this info could come out earlier. What drives the short film is the guy's approach to his last story, and therefore the end of his life. What's it going to be?

Stephen Brown (Level 5)

You need to capitalize characters when you first introduce them.

A lot of the action segments are too long. It is very off putting to the reader when they are not short and snappy.

It's an interesting story and the characters are quite well defined, but you really need to correct the problems with this. FAIR attempt.

Stina Carlstedt (Level 3)

You have very poetic language, I think you could tell this story as a short story as your description of the action is probably more evocative than the filmed result would be... I think it's a bit problematic that you have a very visual section surrounded by basically talking heads, the fact that it's so intense will make it more challenging to hold the interest during the the dialogue portions. MAybe you could work with flashbacks over part of the narrative parts.

T. James DeStein (Level 5)

I dunno what just happened. I was very confused the entire script. I thought it was a little long, too. Maybe try shortening all those long descriptive paragraphs. I don't know if I'm an idiot or what, but I just had no idea what was going on in that script.

William Bienes (Mod Emeritus)

The constant use of ellipses was very distracting. Aside from that, I was confused as to what was going on in this script as it relates to the stories, life/death and the doctor himself. Did these stories of the trunk need to be told or must they be completed in dreams before Thayer passes on?

It did not feel tight or together, and maybe that was in part due to the ellipses.

William Coleman (Level 5)

This one wins the prize for writing, it coms away back when it comes to structure. Even so, I am rating your screenplay high because i entertained me as a reader. Visualizing what you describe may never match your words. There is a sense of delightful decadence and erudition in your descriptions. Your dialog is more than functional. In all, you create a sense of late Victorian writing. You place your piece firmly in an elegant past. However, I do find your plot doesn't quite come into focus. Perhaps if you had started with Doctor Percival in attendance as Thayer is served turtle soup, that we knew we are looking back on a lifetime of adventure, some of which may not be real, you would hav had a framing device to tie it all together.

I am really curious as yo who wrote this one. I look forward to the end of the month.


Comments Made After the Contest

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 9/1/2008 6:09 PM

Thank you sincerely for all your generous energy, insights and thoughtful guidance.

I keep writing, I keep learning and I keep reading.
It’s a hell of a learning process this scriptwriting extravaganza.

By the time I had absorbed, analyzed all the wonderful opinions I received on my first scriptwriting attempt a month ago, it was too late to incorporate very much into my second entry. Yes, my formatting is still screwed up to confuzzle my readers. I’m still too damn wordy and I’m still telling more than I’m showing in this visual medium of film.

But I have cranked my skills up a notch or two thanks to the amazingly helpful input I’ve been honored to receive here.

I am now a rising novice mediocre scriptwriter. But, hey that’s way up from being a poor one a month ago.

I promise to be a reasonably good by the time I submit my seventh scrip on this wonderful site.

Patrick Sweeney (Level 4) ~ 9/1/2008 6:41 PM

Your craft has improved quite a bit on the technical side from your first entry, though you still have some room to grow - don't we all! :) Good work, and keep plugging away.

John Brooke (Level 5) ~ 9/2/2008 9:42 AM

Patrick, thank you for noticing that my technical skills are improving. As you suggest, plugging holes in my storytelling should keep them afloat in the future. I will do a rewrite of this script, as I did with “A Joyful Noise”.


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