TITLE:

 

AUTHOR:

 

FORM:

Feature

PAGES:

112

GENRE:

Period Drama

BUDGET:

Mid

LOCALE:

Hungary

CIRCA:

1920s-1950s

DATE:

1/11/2012

READER:

AC

 

LOGLINE:

 A gypsy boy spends his life pursuing a career as a pianist over the backdrop of mid-20th century Hungary.

 

POINT

SCORE

OVERVIEW

Voice

8

Hello again Gloria.   I'm not sure if you made any large changes to this version of Gypsy Boy as I did not notice any obvious ones.   Most of my compliments and criticisms from the previous evaluation still stand after reading "Gypsy Boy" for a second time, but with more room to breath I will be happy to expand on these points further, and discuss the many things you did right, and what can be done better to help this work rise to the next level.

 

Once again, you did an excellent job establishing an immersive setting and tone.  But also the story could use some focus on its structure and character to really begin to blossom.   You have a good foundation here, and it's time for you to build a fantastic screenplay with it.  You're in a great place right now.

 

 

Format

9

Story

7

Structure

6

Theme

8

Tone

9

Premise/ Concept

8

Plot Points

8

Pacing

7

Conflict

7

Characterization

7

Dialogue

9

Cast - ability

8

Marketability

7

Commerciality

6

Salability

7

TOTAL POINTS

 121 /160

Tone/Dialogue/Theme:

You do a great job recreating the feel of war-torn Hungary.  By the end of the story I really feel like I was there.  This is a credit to the quality of your descriptions and the authenticity of the entire script.  It is clearly well-researched and you put that time spent studying up on the subject right there on the page for all to see.  The dialogue feels authentic as well, which is nothing short of amazing since you are having Hungarians speaking English.  You do a great job having the dialogue teeter on the fence between old-timey and modern.  Lines like "Brave lad to be born into such a troubled time" (p. 29) exemplify this.

I'm also impressed with how the themes tend to come full circle as history repeats itself.  My favorite example of this is when Andras becomes just as sad and pathetic about his inability to support his family as his father once was.  This is an excellent way to make the story thematically poetic.

Structure:

The most important aspect of the screenplay for you to work on at this point is the structure.  Your story is ambitious in scope -- and I admire that -- but I feel very strongly that isolating the story to one timeframe of Andras's life would improve the screenplay dramatically.  I mentioned in the previous evaluation that the most interesting aspect of the story is post-war, and that you should place less emphasis on everything pre-war.  I still believe this is true.  I still recommend you structure the screenplay so that the focus is on Andras balancing his passion for music, his family, and the politics of post-war Hungary.  Everything before it feels like an extended set-up once this real emotional core of the story begins.  In other words, it currently feels like two movies: one about a kid growing up in war-torn Hungary, and one about a soldier with a passion of the ivory keys who returns to his war-destroyed family and must find a way to integrate back into society.  These are both fine stories to tell, but you only have room to tell one.  And since the second story has more potential, I say you have Andras return from war towards the beginning.

When I say "towards the beginning", don't be afraid to make it page one.  The entire story could very well be what you currently begin on page 55.  Instead of this story being about "a gypsy boy who spends his life pursuing a career as a pianist over the backdrop of mid-20th century Hungary" make it about "a war-torn soldier who returns home and must rebuild his family's life against the backdrop of post-war Hungary."   By giving the story more focus, it will become richer and easier to get on board with.  If you still want to show some of his past you can do so in well-timed and efficiently used flashbacks.  Maybe he sits down at the dusty piano for the first time since before the war and we get a quick sequence of him as that young Gypsy Boy practicing with his father.  Or maybe as he performs at the tea house we get a flashback of him performing his first gig at the Circus. 

I understand it will require a complex rewrite to restructure the story in this manner, but I feel very strongly that it will bring enough benefit to be worth the time and energy.

 

Conflict/Characterization:

There is a lot of obvious conflict all around Andras, but there are places where things are a bit unbelievably easy for him.  What comes to mind is the series of jobs Andras gets post-war.  He really doesn't have to do much to get these, and as soon as one becomes undesirable, another one magically and easily enters his life:  He gets the nightclub gig, but when it turns out that's hard for his family, it just takes him a page to get the job at the tea house.  When that goes sour (in a pretty graphic way), he just stumbles into a nightclub within half a page and gets a gig with the American jazz band.  He might be in communist, post-war Hungary but he seems to have an easier job finding work over and over than half of modern America.   A protagonist is only worth the obstacles he has to overcome, and for long stretches the obstacles are pretty small and surprisingly easy to overcome for Andras.

And this leads to something I mentioned in the previous evaluation:  Andras is currently a passive hero.  He is the protagonist and therefore he should be the driving force of the story, but instead he reacts to situations and doesn't really create any opportunities for himself.  Andras doesn't beg the American jazz players to give him a chance -- or even ask them at all -- he just stumbles in and they invite him to jam.  Even in pre-war he rarely comes up with his own ideas for the future.   (i.e. The circus dictates his schedule.  The Peddler gets him to go to the audition.  And when he discovers the audition was false, the director doesn't need much more convincing than "I would like to play for you, sir.")  Having Andras be passive makes it difficult for me to admire him or root for him.  I would care more about him -- and therefore the story -- if he was the true driving force.  Every decision and choice Andras is faced with should propel the story in different directions. Even if this means you have to reduce the influence of the Peddler.

And on the subject of the Peddler, I had a bit of a problem with him and Zolly.  This story -- as you wrote it -- is based in reality.  But Zolly is comically evil and the Peddler is too convenient of a character to be realistic.

For someone to meet a kid at five-years-old and hate him from that moment, and then go out of his way to try to get the adult killed in war and through communist politics... it's potent, "Snidely Whiplash" evil.  He might as well twirl his mustache.  Zolly, with his clown persona that he can't seem to shake and what seems like an entire life dedicated to hating a single kid, feels like a character from another movie that found its way into your grounded-in-reality story.  Most of what Zolly does could easily be attributed to other forces.  (Andras could simply be drafted into the war, for example).  Because of this, I highly recommend you lessen Zolly's influence throughout the script and perhaps keep him as a childhood enemy.  If you want him to be a constant life-long torment, it would make more sense if Andras fabricates him as the personification of his doubt or has troubling flashbacks of Zolly when under stress.

The Peddler on the other hand is believable, but acts as a deus ex machina.  In ancient Greek plays, whenever the hero was in insurmountable turmoil the play would end with God magically appearing and fixing everything.  This is basically what the Peddler does.   There are multiple instances where the Peddler just drops in and not just points Andras in the right direction, but actively leads Andras to the promise land.  (This is in reference to the final sequence, where the Peddler saves Andras and his family by getting them out of Hungary as refugees.  He doesn't just help, he basically does all the work.  Andras just has to show up and follow.)  If you lessen the Peddler's power and influence, you will increase Andras's power and influence.  And as Andras is the protagonist, he should be the one to have the power and influence.  He shouldn't follow the Peddler to freedom, he should figure it out on his own.  If anything, the Peddler should be following Andras.  I highly recommend you limit the Peddler's influence and allow Andras to find his own way through his issues.  Both characters will serve the story better if you do.

 

Voice:

Although I do enjoy a lot of your prose and descriptions, you sometimes dip a bit too close to "novel writing."  Remember that the difference between a novel and a screenplay is that in screenwriting, nothing goes on the page that can't be shown on screen.  You want to be creative in your descriptions, but you don't want to make the reader think he's reading a novel.

An example: "For the first time since he returned from the war, she begins to understand her husband." (p. 104).  Although this might be true, you are telling us what's going on in the head of a character.  How exactly would this be shown on screen?  The truth is it can't.  What can be shown is the hand-kissing you wrote in the next sentence.  Stick to that.  You know the saying a picture is worth a thousand words?  Well one hand-kiss is worth more than a sentence explaining what the hand-kiss is supposed to represent. Another adage is “an ounce of behavior is worth more than a pound of words.”

Another example: "Her eyes reflect her suffering and humiliation, but also her strong resolve for a new life." (p. 60)  I have no idea who you had in mind to play this role, but it would have to be the best actress on the planet if they can show all that word-for-word with just the way they look at someone.  What you are doing here is explaining the subtext.  If a story is written well, the subtext will be obvious enough.  There's no line in Romeo & Juliet where Shakespeare adds "Oh, by the way, you can tell these two are totally in love..." you just know they're in love from the story.  Ildiko looking up slowly and her next line say everything you need to say.

These are just two examples, but this sort of thing occurs often throughout the screenplay.  Remember that you want to show subtext with images.  You don't want to explain the subtext to the reader in passages that can't directly be shown on screen.  Always show.  Never tell.

Also, try not to use parentheticals within dialogue unless it's to clarify to whom the character is speaking.  If you write stuff like "(mocking)" (p. 4) or "(irritated)" (p. 75), it comes off as you trying to tell the actor how to perform the role.  It can be off-putting.  I recommend you avoid doing this.   It's usually obvious anyway (in both these instances, it's clear that the line is supposed to be in a mocking tone and an irritated tone respectively without clarification required).

 

Salability:

It is obvious that you are passionate about this story and Andras, but it would be a disservice if I at least didn't mention the uphill climb it would be to sell even the perfect telling of this story.  Hollywood is currently at an all-time low on ticket sales, and is trying to make up for it with mainstream, audience-pleasing fare.  It's usually difficult to sell a period piece at the best of times, let alone in this economy.  And a period piece taking place in a lesser-known foreign country about a third-world pianist will be even more difficult to sell, as it won't appeal to the masses.  But again, I get the sense that this is a passion project for you and you couldn't care less about the economics of it, but I figured I should let you know.

 

In Conclusion:

Overall you have a good script here that does a fantastic job throwing us into the world you chose, and that is worthy of celebration.  If you can get the story and character more focused and on-par with the setting and tone, you'll have a real winner on your hands!  Good luck!