Earlier this year I submitted an original screenplay titled Best Served Cold to the Nicholl’s Fellowship and made it to the quarter finals. Now most screenplay competitions are designed to just take your money and tell you that your writing is akin to a lunch made up of dead bugs and shards of glass, but the Nicholl’s is put on by the Academy of Arts and Sciences (the same folks that do the Oscars), so that carries a bit of weight.
Out of 7,200 applicants I made the quarter cut (down to 350) but didn’t move on beyond that. Now everyone told me that I should be proud and give myself a pat on the back, but honestly speaking I’ll do that when I have a legitimate career as a writer. Until that day I’ll just placate myself by damning everyone whom passes on my work, because after all they are monsters that should be put down like a rabid Hitler dog.
Although, this year the Nicholl’s Fellowship has implemented a “Reader’s Notes” in which they pass on the notes of the reader – it’s very aptly named. I cannot begin to tell you how grateful I am for the kind words of these two people. I am forever thankful for this boost in confidence and thank you for recounting my story better than I ever could.
Usually 80 page scripts betray big gaps in storytelling skills. Usually revenge scripts are wildly uninventive. Usually talky scripts bore me. Not to mention ones where investment banking figures prominently…
Told in real time, within the confines of a single setting with only two characters, this script takes all of my expectations and reverses them in an original and brilliantly witty fashion. Investment banker Tristan and his nemesis Chester (a construction company owner who lost his business due to a shady loan) banter back and forth with rapid-fire intensity and no shortage of sardonic observations, playing a darkly comedic game of intellectual cat and mouse. This interplay is the crux of this script’s success.
A rather lighthearted set-up draws us into the action as Chester masquerades as an eccentric old man. By the time he reveals that he has plans to commit suicide and has already framed Tristan for the murder, we are impressed with the twist the action has taken as the tone shifts towards a darker purpose.
The claustrophobic aura is slightly reminiscent of a film like PHONE BOOTH and the writer escalates the tension in a subtle way with the ticking clock device. Chester clearly has the upper hand and his menacing quality is mesmerizing as he puts Tristan through the paces trying to erase evidence that would connect him to Chester’s impending death.
This is one of the best revenge scripts I have read. And probably the ONLY 80 page script I have ever read that tells a complete and compelling story. And I’m still iffy on investment banking as a major plot point, but the writer highlights the recent economic collapse due to shady banking in a way that is neither preachy nor dry. I don’t like to admit to being wrong, but hats off to the writer for making me eat my words on several fronts!
The dialogue in this script is captivating. The first part of this script reads like a hilarious black comedy that makes nuanced but very resonant points about the self-indulgence of the wealthy and what people are willing to do to ingratiate themselves with them out of greed. The script uses subtext very well during this portion of the story.
When the script turned into a thriller, I was a little disappointed because the elderly man whose voice I found so funny turned out to be a front. As the thriller part of the script progressed, however, I became intrigued in the attempts by the two characters constantly to gain the upper hand and outsmart each other.
What is great about this script is that it is pretty low-budget but full of plot twists and turns as well as interesting character portraits, and the dialogue is sharp throughout. Personally, I think the script would feel more complete and satisfying, however, if the genre were more consistent and set up audience expectations more consistently throughout since it’s a relatively short script so it feels a bit disjointed.