A new Top 25 script enters the Scriptshadow Universe! Read on to find out how to make a simple premise Top 25 worthy.
Premise: After a lawyer accidentally hits a man on his drive home, he tries to cover up the crime, only to realize there’s more to this man than meets the eye.
About: I have no idea where today’s screenwriters came from. All I know is that they’d previously made a couple of shorts, and then they write something that finishes on the Blood list then top 10 on the freaking Black List. That’s a life-changing moment right there. And what’s great about Bump is that it’s one of the only scripts in the top ten THAT’S ACTUALLY ORIGINAL and not another tired lazy biopic. Imagine that – writers writing original material and getting recognized for it! Seems like a dream from days past, like mint-chocolate chip ice cream. I expect this one to attach an awesome director and actors soon. Material is stronger than the bear in The Revanant.
Writers: Bump by Ori Guendelman (story by Ori Guendelman & Rob McClelland)
Details: 103 pages – 5/13/2015 draft
Good scripts. Boy are they hard to come by.
I’ve been reading a lot of scripts lately and the same thought always goes through my head. “How many more pages?” “How much longer?” I just want to get to the end.
Even with the good ones, I’m still checking, because I have a consult to do, more contest scripts to read, errands to run. I love what I do but I don’t want to be working til 2am.
That may sound strange to some but it’s the same thought process the majority of people reading your scripts are going through. It’s not that they’re set on hating your script or not giving you a chance. They’re simply human beings with responsibilities, work, family. The faster they can get their reading done, the sooner they can get to everything else in their day.
“Bump” is the first script I’ve read in a long time where I checked the page count and was UPSET that there were only 20 pages left. “This is going to end??” I thought? But so much is still happening! It can’t end so soon. Threads need to be tied up! There has to be something wrong. Maybe I got a faulty draft and 10 pages are missing or something! I was genuinely upset.
So what’s so great about this script? Read on to find out, you apostrophe jackals!
Thomas does not exist in an ideal cross-section of adjectives. He’s the wimpy lawyer who never stands up for himself. We meet him with his boss, Clint, explaining the importance of this “toughness” trait, and how the only way he’s going to make partner is if he starts showing some balls.
Little does Thomas know, his balls are about to be crash-tested Lexus commercial style. On the way home from the boss-dinner, a semi-drunk Thomas hits a homeless man trying to wave him down. The man is definitely dead-o.
Thomas makes the split-second decision (one of many) to throw him in the trunk, bring him home, and start dismembering him, in hopes of covering the incident up. BUT. (FIRST MAJOR SPOILER) While dismembering the man, Thomas finds a giant bag of meth in his stomach. That’s right, the man he hit is a mule. And not only that. There’s a BLACK BEEPING DEVICE TIED TO IT.
Realizing that whoever sent this mule can now figure out where he is, Thomas hurries away to dispose of both the man and the tracker. But wouldn’t you know it. That dent on his car from the hit-and-run gets him pulled over. And this is when shit really goes bad.
I’m not going to spoil the rest for you because the genius of this script is in the ways it keeps surprising you. But suffice it to say, a lot more people get involved, and little wimpy Thomas keeps getting away by the skin of his teeth. Will he make it all the way to the finish line? Bump is one of those rare scripts where you won’t know the answer to that question until the very last page.
There’s an old saying in the movie business. If you’ve got a dead body, you’ve got a movie.
And while that may seem like a throwaway line, it’s actually true. ESPECIALLY if you’re writing outside of one of the industry-friendly genres (Sci-Fi, Action, Adventure, Horror). Those genres bring with them automatic marketable elements. If you’re just writing about people, there aren’t many ways to make the script marketable without introducing a dead body.
However, the dead-body script – particularly the ‘hide the dead body’ script – tends to run into the same problem every time. It’s the same thing we talked about yesterday, in another “hide the dead body” script. We’ve seen dead body movies before. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO EXECUTE THE SUBJECT MATTER IN A FRESH WAY?
And really, that’s what all screenwriting comes down to. Every story’s been told. Since you’re re-telling them, if you don’t find a way to give us something different, there’s no point in even writing the script. Move on.
Bump achieves this feat in a couple of ways. Guendelman and McClelland RELENTLESSLY throw obstacles at their main character. They are ruthless. Whether it be an angry wife, a distraught best friend, a local cop, two state cops, a Terminator like assassin, a major drug kingpin, his even worse assistant. They aren’t afraid to hurl major obstacles at their hero every second of this screenplay.
Also, and this is the real key to Bump working – you know those moments as a writer where you’re like, “I can’t have John find out Amy is cheating on him here because then the story is over. Therefore I have to stretch the story out and have Amy find out later?” Whenever you do that –artificially extend things – readers know. We can tell you’re deliberately pushing back reveals and plot points because your story’s over otherwise.
These guys don’t do that. When you think, “Oh, the main character is totally going to talk his way out of this cop stop here, because it’s only 40 pages in and if this cop figures him out, then the story is over!” the cop DOES figure him out. And you’re sitting there going, “Well wait a minute, I’m not used to seeing that.”
And this is a very important point so pay attention. The majority of writers will play softball with their main character because it’s easier on them to write. Think about it. Let’s say you’re writing a serial killer script and the moment presents itself that they could catch the serial killer on page 30. What will you do? You will always pick the serial killer getting away. Because it’s easier on you. Now you can continue writing the familiar blueprint of them chasing the serial killer.
But what if they actually caught the serial killer on page 30? The thing you gain when you take that less-traveled path is a reader short-circuiting: “No. This does not compute. All writers write it this other way.” It’s like you snap them out of their auto-pilot mode and from that moment on, the reader respects you, and your script gains a new superpower in the process – the power of unpredictability. Once the reader knows you can do that once, they know you can do it again, which makes the read more exciting.
I’m not going to say that Bump did anything ridiculously different. But it definitely played out all its key moments in a slightly different manner than I’m used to. And let me be clear. That’s great. BUT IT’S NOT ENOUGH. Just doing it differently isn’t enough. I can have a UFO fall out of the sky and kill my serial killer and that would be “different,” but it would also be stupid. The trick – and the thing good writers do – is they not only make the unexpected choice, but THEY EXECUTE THAT CHOICE WELL.
And that’s what these two were so good at. I wish I could be more specific but the key moments I’m thinking of were twists and I don’t want to spoil those. I’d rather you read this and see it yourself. But the main point is: When you come to a familiar sequence – like a cop stopping your main character, who has a body in the trunk – the first question you need to ask yourself is, “How do I present this common scenario in a fresh way?
And you know what? You may not be able to. You may have to execute it in a normal way because that’s the way that works best for the movie. But AT LEAST YOU ASKED THE QUESTION. Bad screenwriters never ask the question, and that’s why their scripts are so derivative.
I’ll finish by emphasizing that point. Because a movie like Bump doesn’t have special effects. It doesn’t have super-high production value. It doesn’t operate in a genre that automatically pulls an audience in (horror, for example). All you have is your choices. Those are all you own to make your script stand out. So make sure you exploit that.
The harder you work, the more of a chance you’ll write a script like “Bump.”
[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[ ] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[X] impressive (TOP 25!!!)
[ ] genius
What I learned: One trope that audiences love is good people being forced to do bad things. That’s always interesting because those are the people who will be most in conflict with themselves. Think about that. If a bad dude kills a man, he’s not in conflict with anything. He’s like, “Eh, another job finished.” But if a GOOD MAN does the same, his whole world is turned upside-down. Thomas is a good man. But to save his life, he needs to do a lot of bad things. And that’s what makes this so entertaining to read.