RJFS Writer's group!


Yo. I noticed this thread dropped off the main page of the forums. Unacceptable. :wink:

As I had said, writing’s been delayed because I had surgery, but I do have another five pages. Another reason why this is taking so long for me to finish is because I made the decision to write another screenplay besides this one at the same time, which I don’t think I will ever do again, as I feel like I’ve been writing a lot but I’m never get anything done. Maybe I’ll post that second screenplay when I’m done with it, as I’ll likely finish Down in the Valley (which still needs a better title) and the second screenplay at the same time.

Anyway, here’s an additional five pages for Down in the Valley here (pages 67 - 72).

Hope everyone’ s been doing well!


I want to preface this by saying that I’m just not happy with how I’m doing on Yeshiva Gangster lately…it feels like I have a rock in my shoe every time I sit down to write it. I have a portion of the outline in semi-workable order, but it feels like it lacks cohesion…and - even though I’ve been chewing on this for weeks - it looks like I’ve only spent one fevered evening on the poor thing But, one good thing about a writer’s group is that I don’t have to suffer alone. Here’s the outline:

As for the boxing outline, I’m really happy about your notes on the opening portion. Those are the kinds of things that it’s easy to overdo, and cutting that down gives me more time on the back end.

The character motivations are clear in my head, but that doesn’t mean they’re clear on the page: Blake is a boxer…he defines himself by it, he’s done it since childhood, and he doesn’t know how to be something else. He’s also always been independent and smarter than the people around him…and now - with a brain injury - his mom drives him to a burger job where he’s less competent than meth heads and highschool dropouts.

Miky is less complicated…he’s a depressive who self-medicates with drugs, and he craves affection (both public adoration and intimacy). His acting career was never anything - one many who try for a short time and get nowhere. Lucky for him, the applause craving can be satisfied in a lot of different ways, and boxing generates applause!

All of that said, a classier fight is definitely on the agenda…and we need to create delicious controversy with Miky needing to break probation in order to fight. Maybe his probation officer is in the crowd!?


Read your new content:

@PianolasonMars, Tensions are rising and things are changing in DITV. But slowly. The feeling I have is that you don’t exactly know how to go in the direction you are aiming for. If believe you’re writing linear so it’s kinda normal.

The story is interesting but if you decide to rewrite it when you’re done with the first draft, you may have to trim things down.

Also I was recently thinking about your story and I thought it would maybe work better in a comic format than movie. 20 pages episodes may work great with your setting.

About your outline @Exquisite_Corpse I thought it was good with some great moments and I’m interested by the script you may write out of it. A concern is that I’m not really sure about what you’re story is about. First I thought it would be a thief story, starting with the meeting with Newton but I’m not that sure now that Kal is sent to another school. It may be more clear later.
I did not really felt like it lacked of cohesion.

Have a good week!


Five new pages here. Pages 72 - 77.
@Spica I am writing linear - it’s been super difficult! I will never be approaching a story I intend on turning into a film this way again. Thank you for reading, I appreciate it.
I don’t think I will be turning this into a first draft. It’s taken me so long to write that I just want to move on to something else.
@Exquisite_Corpse I was wondering how her religious identity was going to intertwine with the stealing factor. After reading the last line, I am definitely interested to see how Kallie’s kleptomaniac impulses are going to factor into the story.
At the beginning, I think the countdown of the years is cool, but unnecessary. The year of the events portrayed isn’t really vital to the audience’s understanding of these scenes.
I like the contradiction of Kallie reading about Exodus 20:12, then pocketing the cookie. You have a knack for finding humor in juxtaposition.
Although I know we suggested this topic for your next story, I wonder if this is really the story you’re trying to write. Not that I’m assuming every writer’s experience is similar, but when I have problems with a story, I’m finding that something about it - the plot, characters, premise, setting - doesn’t quite work. And it’s only when I figure out where the problem lies that I can isolate or integrate the components that are the actual story I want to tell. Do you think that might be the reason for the rock in your shoe?


Even if you don’t finish DITV it’s still was an interesting exercise!


I appreciate that, Lucas, thanks!

I think I’m going to have to push myself to finish it - I feel like I’ve come this far and I can’t turn back. I can definitely feel the end on the horizon, though. It’s coming.

Hope you’re having a good week :slight_smile:


I’m dropping this in the thread right before going out, so I don’t have time to type out detailed responses to anything. What I’ll say now is just that Yeshiva Gangster is a cool idea, but I feel bogged down by the need to do a lot of research. I’ve spent a decent amount of time in the orthodox community (small o), but I never went to an orthodox school, and I certainly didn’t grow up that way. When you set things in the real world, you put yourself in the position of speaking through actual people and their actual experiences, and - when you do that - you need to get it right.

Luckily, there are no (known) space monsters, so I can write this one however I want! We’ve got actual pages instead of outline today…I needed a break from big-picture thinking.


Hi there! Hope everyone had a good weekend.

Five new pages here. (77 - 82)

And also, remember when I said I was working on another screenplay at the same time? It was for the purposes of coming out of my God awful writer’s block with Down in the Valley, and also to try and take myself and what I was writing less seriously. I tried to abide by a rule of not overthinking too much, and just letting the process happen, rather than fretting and worrying about what I was writing, in spite of being too much of a newbie to have the luxury of doing so.

So, the screenplay is finished. Once again, this is written linear, and it’s a first draft. But at least I can say that it’s finished. The biggest surprise for me was that it came in at less than 80 pages.

You guys don’t have to read the whole thing - reading screenplays is an investment, your time is valuable, and I’m not planning to show this screenplay to anyone other than you guys and a friend of mine. Therefore, a whole read isn’t necessary. If you could read enough to get a sense of the piece and let me know what you think of it, any input would be appreciated (though please keep in mind that, once again, this is a first draft and written without any pre-planning).

It’s about the members of a cult performing their suicide ritual, which of course does not go the way they planned. Jessica, I’d be especially interested to know what you thought, since the subject matter seems up your alley.

Here it is: It Begins.

Feedback on Space Monster the movie to follow. Thanks in advance, guys.


I read your screenplay!

I think you have the potential for a really interesting story here. You’ve got a diverse group of characters with distinct points of view, a setting (a spaceship in space!) with plenty of thematic and narrative possibilities. I’m excited to see where the story goes, and what the characters accomplish.

The first critique I’m going to give you I’ve mentioned before: have you seen a screenplay where the locations are on the right side of the page, as opposed to the left? If you have and can point out an example, I’ll shut up about it. Because I’m so used to the placement of transitions, I can’t follow the orientation of your actions because they’re on two different sides of the page. You have locations, and inserts on the right hand side, and CUT TOs to locations on the left. If you’re used to incorporating the CUT TOs in your screenplays, I still recommend keeping all references to locations and camera placement (inserts, p.o.v., etc.) on the right hand side for the sake of clarity, and transitions on the left if you must use them.
For example:

                     CUT TO:


This cockpit is huge!

                    CUT TO:


So is the cargo bay!

                    CUT TO: 


Haha, holy crap, I like the way that the CUT TO(s) actually looks like they’re a screenplay. Please let me know if you disagree.

The second thing is, you don’t really add much in the way of atmosphere or character emotions. As an example, check out one of the drafts of the Star Trek (2009) screenplay for reference (pgs 13 - 18).


Somehow, the writers get inside the heads of these characters in a way that adds to the movement of the story and doesn’t take away from the visuals. I believe that including such emotional moments allows the reader to connect with the characters in this story, to see them as people rather than constructs, which would provide good incentive for a power broker to turn your screenplay into a movie. Also, once of the most singularly appealing parts of deep space is the atmosphere - within and outside the ship. Describe that a little, see if you can use it to fuel the characters’ mindsets, and/or establish atmosphere and tone.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with if you decide to turn this material into another screenplay.


FEEDBACK for @PianolasonMars

DOTV: Jaime’s back with a vengeance, and I’m really enjoying the direction everything is taking right now. Just - generally - you’ve found your voice with this story, and I really hope you find the time and energy to give this a good, honest re-write some day. There’s an audience for these apocalyptic settings, and you never know what someone might be looking for.

Just a sequencing suggestion: Maybe intercut the Shaman sequence with the Dale, Jaime, Tucker sequence…these two scenes seem to be happening at the same time, so it makes chronological sense not to split them up.

The only sort of negative note I want to give for now is that you’re at the point in a screenplay when the story should be SHRINKING rather than GROWING. You’ve set out a lot of plot threads that need to be resolved, so be careful of making the rabbit-hole too deep.

IT BEGINS: I’ve read about half of it now (pg. 32), and I’m really enjoying the whole concept…it’s feels like a more macabre Fish Called Wanda…I’m contractually obligated to enjoy that kind of thing. First a film suggestion: Among Friends (2012) - it’s a low-budget pitch-black comedy in which a woman invites her ‘friends’ to a party, tapes them to their chairs, and confronts them with their misdeeds. It’s hard to describe because it’s very strange, but it feels similar to this script in tone and presentation, so I’m pretty sure you’ll find it useful.

First suggestion: You can begin with everyone seated around the table introducing themselves. Only a few important things happen in those first few pages…you establish some of the social dynamics, and that’s important, but all of the most important parts of that can be included later in some condensed form. The character intros were the part that got everything to click into place.

Only serious problem: You have a little more exposition than you need…there are some “tell don’t show” moments, Jasper’s speeches are too long at points, and numerical information: “Three months, four years, fifteen thousand” - it tangles together and gets confusing (the same problem you pointed out to me with the date counter in Yeshiva Gangster’s outline)


I appreciate your feedback! I have seen A Fish Called Wanda, but I will have to look into Among Friends (especially as I’m really getting into low-budget movies these days). And you’re totally right about the use of numbers in It Begins. I will have to change that (and tighten up the introduction and exposition) upon rewrite.

In terms of DOTV, my goal is to try and finish by 120 pages. There will probably be some threads I don’t wrap up in a satisfactory way, but dammit, the screenplay will get finished.

Thanks again for your feedback on both projects.


Hey why you don’t make for them a group who has good, NEW ideas. At least so new that the idea don’t look like a 1:1-copy.


… can you clarify please? I’m not sure what you mean.

P.S. To the group, I’m planning on participating in a 48 hour film festival this weekend, so I’ll have something to submit next weekend. Thanks.


@Beehoney1 so-called original ideas are sometimes overrated…what I mean is that Valerie and her Week of Wonders (1970) is completely original, but it’s also complete nonsense (that’s why you’ve probably never heard of it). Then you have something like Rocky (1976) which is conceptually about as original as boiling an egg, but the character work, the story arc, and the quirky writing style make it an all time classic.

When you sit down and think about movies you love, lots of them aren’t particularly original…Shawshank Redemption can be seen as a optimistic version of Cool Hand Luke; American Beauty just continues the conversation started by films like The Stepford Wives on whether middle class suburban living is really what you want; even Citizen Kane draws heavily on Shakespearian themes in which - no matter how many opportunities the main character is given - he always makes the worst decision.

True originality can be incredible, but I will guarantee you that very few people choose these movies as their favorites. Here’s a chunk of Conspirators of Pleasure (1996) an unbelievably unique piece of work that I very much enjoyed when I watched it (even though I may not ever want to watch again)


Hello @PianolasonMars,

I mean that we have not only a “amateur group”. We should have also a “beginner group”.


This group’s for everyone, from pros to people who don’t even know how to format a script. Everybody can use feedback and practise to improve.


Just read It begins and I enjoyed it, it was pretty good.
I disagree with Jessica on the intro, I thought it worked well like that.

My only concern is that the story may be a bit long. Like if you had to stretch it out to make it more than 60 pages. There’s not any useless moments but a more concise shorter film (around 40 pages) may be more impactful in my opinion. We are so used to more than one hour long movies that is seems like a necessity but sometimes shorter may be better.


Last week, I maliciously betrayed you all and hung out with a different writer’s group. This group’s purpose was to get each member to turn out a TV pilot in 30 days (a noble effort), but it went totally dead the minute anyone was supposed to turn in pages. Well, anyway, we won’t be trying that again! I did manage to work out an entire, completed outline for the pilot because that was the format of the group, so it was a good exercise to really force myself to get all the way through an entire outline. And the story feels really good. It’ll end up here, no doubt, but I’m going to try and work on some Space Monster for tonight.

I also got a FANTASTIC book that I really want to recommend: Four Screenplays by William Goldman. It contains completed drafts of 4 classic movies (Butch Cassidy, Marathon Man, Princess Bride, and Misery) plus essays about the writing process for each one. I absolutely love this combination of practical writing advice AND actual screenplays. It’s not another “48 tips to success” book; it’s a window into one (very good) writer’s career that will be just as useful for a total novice as it would be to an Oscar-nominated giant.


Appreciate the recommendation. I love William Goldman’s work, and I used to take pretty much anything he said or wrote as gospel - not sure that’s changed much, actually. If there’s any insights you glean from reading those great screenplays about character, narrative, pacing, or what-have-you, please let the rest of us know.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any time to read screenplays or write this week, after recovering from my competition last weekend. But for those of you at the edges of your seats with what’s going to happen with Down in the Valley ;), I am getting my butt in gear today.

And you joined another writer’s group? Gasp! with a Cruella DeVil flourish How DARE you! Oh well, good for us that it didn’t work out :wink: but I hope such an experience won’t deter you from trying again.

I may post the screenplay I wrote from the competition last week, only seven pages, just to hear your thoughts. Actually, I think I will do that later.

Hope everyone has a good rest of their week.


Guys! I totally had new pages written…but the app crashed and I lost the last two, just =poof=

Like that hour of my life never existed.

I’m gonna go cry myself to sleep and try to reassemble these lost treasures soon. :frowning:

I hope your 48 hour fest movie was a booming success! That kind of filmmaking is really exciting and really in-the-moment. Results may vary in terms of the final product (you have to pick an idea and go…no time for quality control), but hands-on is the only real way to learn.