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Rating: 2.6/5 (8 votes cast)

Firewatch

June 2001. Single mom cannot afford drug rehab for nineteen year old son. By chance, she wanders into a Marine recruiting office at a strip mall. She has a naive notion that she can force her son to enlist in the Marines as a cheap way to get clean. Weak bodied, virtuoso shredder guitarist, Danny Delaney, is flunking community college and losing the promise of a music career due to an Oxycontin addiction. Smart mouthed and spoiled, he turns, once again, to his mom to save his ass. His journey toward transformation is told through his boot camp letters, in which we meet the characters: Drill Instructor Sergeant Goode and Recruit Prattle, and jaded Sergeant Major, Jack Morgan. (Updated Script: June 4, 2012)


 

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  1. Profile photo of malakas
    malakas says
    January 31, 2013, 9:47 pm

    Like my dear old dad always said, “If you can’t say something nice…”

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    AceRodney says
    January 31, 2013, 9:11 pm
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    I can’t really add anything that hasn’t been well-stated above, at least in terms of structure, formatting, or plot but frankly, this story and the near-constant V.O. format left me pretty flat. The dialogue, especially on the part of Sylvie, was cutesy and too wordy — it needs to be right and tight. This greatly affected the molasses-like pacing of the story.

    It’s obvious you made a strong effort in writing it but it still needs a good rewrite to really clean it up and make it “pop”. And I agree — shorten the second act and draw the third act out more. It ends on such an abrupt, unsatisfying note. Other than that, I’d urge you to heed the excellent advice given by Joe and John.

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    bobsaget says
    January 31, 2013, 4:10 am
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    I misread this as Fire Crouch, boy was I wrong.

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  4. ssabatino says
    January 2, 2013, 6:22 pm

    BrianTheLion,
    I’m flattered that you think my script is only a second draft. It’s actually an 8th – and there is a 9th out there that you haven’t seen – one that has corrected formatting. Unlike you, I have taken the many “constructive” criticisms I’ve received and reworked this story over and over. It’s going on 3 years. I discount your review, since it is clearly written in retaliation to the one I wrote on your Russian Cross. In my review of your script, I gave you some necessary advice. Stop listening to your fans; they’re not helping you. In fact, you can discount my review and anything else I say to you except for this: If you think for one second that your script, polished or not, will ever make it to production, you are living in a fool’s fantasy. This entire process is an exercise in academics. Welcome to the world of rejection. Steel yourself, and listen.

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  5. December 31, 2012, 8:21 pm
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    This script needs a lot of work. This seems like a 2nd draft. The grammar is cleaned up but its very boring. The actions don’t grab my attention and the dialogue is VERY ON-THE-NOSE. Very straight-forward with some gratuitous cursing in many scenes. Very bland.

    In sluglines you write Int. (location) – morning. You can ONLY ONLY ONLY ever write Day or Night. It doesnt matter what time of day it is. You can never write, Dawn, Dusk, Morning, Afternoon, etc. ONLY Day or Night.

    You write a lot in the present progressive. As we know, (or maybe not) scripts can only be in Present tense. You write “Danny is pacing,” instead you should have written “Danny paces.” If you ever have an ING at the end of a word, 99% of the time its wrong.

    A few times you write dialogue incorrectly. For example, you write “Ahhhh” or “Shhhh” You are only supposed to write “Ah” or “Sh!” Think of when a pirate says “Argh Matey!” You don’t write “Aaaaaaaaargh Mateeeeey!”

    on Page 18 you mis-wrote “re-enters”. You wrote “reenters”.

    You write too much like a director. It seems like every piece of dialogue has a parenthetical with an emotion underneath it. Scripts are just the blue-prints you hand off to the director. Let him or her make the call with the actors how to read their lines. Parentheticals are okay in moderation, every once in a while, but when you have them every other line of dialogue it gets boring and repetitive and comes off very amateurish.

    Also, you never start a line of dialogue with “–” Just start with the character speaking, For example:

    Can you show me where the bathroom is.
    as opposed to
    –Can you show me where the bathroom is. I dont know why you’d add the — before dialogue.

    When you write dialogue for a character, if it continues onto the next page, you don’t write (MORE) underneath it. It’s implied that there is more when the dialogue ends mid-sentence. You have to be smart enough to know that industry readers and directors and actors are smart enough to know these things already and don’t need to be babied.

    Sometimes you write actions in the parentheticals. You don’t do that. You need to write the dialogue, then write the action in a separate line, then begin again with the name of the character and a “(CONT.)” next to their name.

    When you want to emphasize time has changed, you dont write “Flashback” or “25 years later” in the slugline. You write the slugline, then skip and line and write “FLASHBACK” or “25 YEARS LATER” in all-caps before you write the opening action of the scene.

    The biggest mistake this script has, besides the very, very boring and on-the-nose dialogue, is the italicized words. Again, like the parentheticals, it seems like every line of dialogue has a few words italicized. In scripts, the correct way to write a word when you want to emphasize extra emotion on it is by underlining it. Underline words you want to have stressed, not italicize. It’s a common rookie mistake that a lot of first-time writers make.

    There were a lot of mistakes in this script. It needs a lot of polishing and re-writing before it’s finished. Maybe get into some screenwriting classes and get some proper training and then you will know how to write perfectly (and THEN you can trash everyone else’s work) Best of luck and happy new year! 😉

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  6. ssabatino says
    December 17, 2012, 1:18 am

    Thanks so much for the detailed feedback. The area that most concerns me is dialogue; I appreciate your praise on that. Yes, it is a simple story, and of a genre that has been done before. I knew that when I chose to write this story that I would get these comments. (How many times has Hollywood recycled plots?) Yet, given the fact that our troops have been deployed these 11 years, how many mainstream movies have been written about that? You really haven’t seen this story that often – not recently. Anyway, Firewatch is really about the relationship between the mother and son. I wrote this script for actors – as a drama, not as an action plot. Let’s not forget the input of two insightful actors who can bring that relationship into focus. A talented director can take this basic story, and with creative camera work, present a poignant snap-shot of a rather common dilemma faced by young men (boys, really) and their parents. It is not out of the question that a parent can “convince” a son to sign-up. Ask around, if you know anyone with a teen-aged son. In Danny’s case, he is a spoiled kid. He has been indulged by his mother all his life. He is also out of ideas as to how he can kick the drugs. He’s tried, and he has failed. He finally turns to her for help. It is not a stretch to consider that his mom would have some influence over him, given their relationship. As my trailer illustrates, it is a story of three themes: addiction, redemption, and transformation. These are archetypal – most good stories employ one or more of them. I believe that one does not have to reinvent the wheel. You bring up a couple of valid points, such as Sylvie’s scenes at home being too long, and the romance needing another scene for build-up. I appreciate that, as well. Thanks for taking the time to read it.

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  7. mikeyz says
    December 16, 2012, 11:08 am
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    A very well written story.

    You drop a number of hints as to the time period so I was full-well expecting the ending that you gave, believe it or not! You did however present it in such a subtle way that didn’t make things too obvious and hard to swallow. The fact that you drew parallels to the opening flashback scene with the instructor’s grim predictions made things all the more compelling and inventive.

    The dialogue is quite rivetting but my only beef is that I have seen this sort of thing on many occasions in various different contexts and settings. The “life in the trenches” angle, be it in war movies or films about boot camp, is an all to familiar one for me. I thought, given the nature of Danny’s circumstances, that there was a lot of missed opportunity here to really make things stand out and create a most unique situation in terms of plot and dialogue. In the end, it was really just the standard fare — hard-hitting ‘drill-sargeant-to-recruit-type’ lingo with no surprises whatsoever. Danny’s letters to his mom vis a vis the voice-over while the mom skulks around the house in sad introspection runs on for far too long in my opinion. My feeling is that, while the content is often moving, the audience may tire with basically the same sort of details – just said differently – about Danny’s grueling situation in the infantry. Plus, I failed to see any significant changes to his character and I was really hoping to see something more from him during his time in the marines.
    And it’s really hard for me to empathize with the mother since her answer to Danny’s drug problem was to basically force him into the military to get him clean. I hope I interpreted that correctly. In fact, I was a little unclear on this point: I read it as mom forcing son, against his will, to enlist in the marine corp. But the son, who’s an adult at age 19, was totally within his legal right to nix the deal. Am I missing something here? I apologize if I did.
    You clearly have done your homework though with regards to life in the U.S. Marine corp. – my sense is that you may have had some (in)direct experience with that life yourself in one form or another. Either way, I found that experience very informative.
    As far as Sylvie and Jack’s relationship goes — I wasn’t sold on it since there really was no convincing build-up to justify the romance; particularly when you factor in how outraged Sylvie was at the time of the initial encounter — all of a sudden she’s taken by this man when her sole purpose for visiting the office was out of extreme concern for her suffering son.
    I would think that the last thing on her mind was to become involved with a marine officer / administrator unless other motives were involved (and I’m thinking based on my reading that there probably were.)
    On the topic of formatting: I probably am not the foremost authority here given my novice status on the subject but from what I could tell (and based on my recent readings from a man named David Trottier…lol), all seems to be in order and I encountered very few spelling and grammar oversights along the way. While the time-line shifted frequently, I had no trouble following what was happening and where the story was going based on your clear slugline information and action sequences.

    All in all, I was thoroughly moved, entertained and even enlightened on a number of issues you’ve presented here. It’s a good story and I’m not surprised it went as far as it did in the competition.

    Nicely done!

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  8. Yopauly75 says
    December 12, 2012, 1:50 pm
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    Overall I thought the script was good. I thought the story was very simple but told well. I think you need to go back and construct a third act . . . right now it’s almost non existant. The script reads about ten to twelve pages too long. It’s a simple enough story that you should be able to tell it in a 100 pages. Your dialogue is definitely your strong point. Very natural! You need to concentrate more on your structure and your formatting. There were several camera directions that should be nixed (but that’s an easy fix). Right now the script seems to be lacking. At times it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere and even when it does, it takes forever to get there. Once your able to get your narrative as “snappy” as your dialougue, you’ll have something nice. Good luck to you!

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  9. ebernard1 says
    July 1, 2012, 9:39 am
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    This script was especially interesting to me as I am a active duty servicemen. I have known a few people that have struggled with drugs and other challenges which have presented to much to overcome in the transition into military life. This script captures the essence of that struggle for redemption.
    I thought your dialogue was very realistic and I was captivated for the most part waiting to see how Danny will pull it off. The ending was the harsh reality.
    I think you can explore some alternate endings that leave the audience in a more tolerant acceptance if not happy mood if you explore the trade of one addiction to another in war or show the digression that occurs when you give up your freedom to become a Soldier. Perhaps the sacrifice of freedom is the only way to battle your demons because someone or something takes your choice away.
    Overall a good read. I think you might want to find an editing service to help with the structural polish.
    Good Luck! If you ever want to discuss with me please don’t hesitate to message me.

    Erik Bernard

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  10. john1988d says
    May 30, 2012, 1:07 pm
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    All in all it was an interesting read. I liked the struggle of the characters (mother & son, as well as the token problem recruit Prattle).

    It’s obvious you put a lot of work into this, so I will keep my comments to only the areas where I think you may be able to improve:

    *I agree with the above review that the opening scene needs to be shortened a bit, but while being shortened, I think it would add more to the twist of Jack being the marine years later that Ms. Toranto meets runs the conversation with the teacher more, maybe foreshadowing his future as a leader.

    *In several instances of the mom reading the letters in her son’s room you describe what she is imagining or thinking. It’s nearly impossible to show on screen what someone is imagining or thinking (ex. she imagines her son playing guitar) Does the viewer actually see that on screen?

    *Some of the dialog between the recruits runs on for too long, especially between the son and Prattle. He repeats his disgust for Prattle several times in the same scene, especially during the hike when they are in the back of the pack. I think this can be shortened, avoiding redundancy while adding some more visual and descriptive elements.

    All in all, I really enjoyed it. There were a few typos I spotted, but it’s been my experience no matter how much you proof read they always sneak their way in there! I think this could be produced on a modest budget and with the right marketing and the blessing of the USMC could prove profitable. Good job!

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    joe13 says
    May 18, 2012, 3:08 am
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    Here’s my review: “All and all, a good read that has beautifully written dialogue, and a lot of white on the pages which means the script is a fast read and looks appealing! — I recommend for Independent Filmmakers!”

    PAGE NOTES:

    The transition into the flashforward is great on page 7/8 — but be careful bc that first scene drags on a lot, hold that first act/scene to at least 5 pages, possibly less. Be careful of long dialogue… no one wants to hear paragraphs of dialogue, keep them shorter.

    Some of your parentheticals are included on the same line as the dialogue — be careful, a parenthetical should always be on a separate line no matter where they are in dialogue.

    Best suggestion would be to shorten up some of the long scenes in the first act — get to the end of the first act by page 20. She should meet the Marine Recruiter on page 20.

    Grammar is fantastic! And, the amount of white on each page is great and very appealing. It’s just the formatting in the very first act on a couple parentheticals.

    Voice over formatting — DANNY (V.O.) — on 27, have a montage on that long paragraph of dialogue, it would be nice to break that up and see about what he speaks. Even just writing in the description prior to that dialogue paragraph “We see a montage of what he speaks.” (something like that without the quotes.)

    Don’t put parenthesis in dialogue if it’s supposed to be spoken. Also, make sure to include (V.O) beside the character names on voice over. No need to italicize either.

    EXT. THE SAND PIT (A SAND BOX LARGE ENOUGH TO ACCOMMODATE A
    PLATOON) AT THE MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT IN SAN DIEGO, CA.
    A SUNNY, HOT DAY.

    –A slugline should be no more than one line — write the description in as a description under the slugline.

    INT. DANNY’S BEDROOM — no need to put a period at the end of BEDROOM. But you should always put the time of day — ie, DAY MORNING AFTERNOON EVENING NIGHT — you can put CONTINUOUS when a character is walking from one area to another OR you can put LATER when time has past in a certain location.

    Yeah, the periods in your slugline after the location have to go. Replace those with a dash.

    INT. A PLATOON BARRACKS AT THE MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT,
    SAN DIEGO. MORNING.

    –Should be: INT. PLATOON BARRACKS – MORNING

    By now we should know that it’s AT THE MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT in SAN DIEGO. That should be in your description when you first show it — maybe even a TITLE: “MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT, SAN DIEGO” when you first show it (that would be placed in description.)

    pp33 — you skip two spaces between “reprimanding” and “a” by mistake.

    “Snugglenuts” — haha great

    Think about giving Sylvie more of a story too — she can still do things when we hear the voice overs from the letters — like go shopping or see friends etc. However, I did like seeing her pace when she gets nervous of Danny’s illness.

    I see similarities to the film Tigerland, which did have more action and was an indie film. I like seeing what the Marine Corps is like — very cool.

    Sylvie: “Ma’am again!” — funny

    Fantastic scene where the mother flips at the Sergeant. Oscar scene for the actress.

    pp45 double skipped lines. (happens a lot — could just be the pdf transfer, but regardless check it out.)

    Elvis, Gladys joke — great.

    Bottom 51 — another double skip of lines.

    Top of 52 — SYLVIE — too many spaces between “met. You…”

    52 mid-way down — another double line skip

    55 bottom — another double line skip

    58 mid-way: another double line skip

    bottom 60 — another double line skip

    –again those could be the pdf transfer–

    61 — way to long of a paragraph of dialogue to not show anything happening.

    –Thus Far: I really like your dialogue — all of the characters speak very well, and in their own unique way. The only thing is that you write paragraphs sometimes in your dialogue — try to stay away from that — break those up with montages — show us more about what’s going on rather than telling us action and inner thoughts in dialogue — they say you shouldn’t do both, but I personally would like to see what he is thinking as he writes the letters. Think of “A Thin Red Line” — they show action over the reading of the letters and the writing of the letters — it’s okay to cutaway while the voice over is happening in both instances of writing and reading.

    Good scene when the drill instructor forces danny to finish the exam since we the audience are rooting for Danny to succeed!

    Great scene when Danny meets his mother on the camp.

    Page 69 — too many spaces in your slugline

    69 — need an INT. or EXT. on the flashback slug

    70 bottom — another double line skips

    –I see the actor who plays McLovin playing the role of Danny in this, but a serious breakout performance.

    71 bottom — another double line skip

    haha “what things?” “nothings…things… impressions… what are we talking about??” — great

    80 — Jack and Sylvie sleeping together… Is that too soon? Seems like at least one more date should happen there and then they sleep together. I like that he’s there and he waves at her from the car. It’s quirky.

    Listernine — funny

    “How old are are you, Delaney? six? Seven?” — sounds like a Pitt role until we find out he’s only 28 years old.

    Another good title: Misery or/and Merit

    108 — I know that four years seem like an eternity — “seems?”

    Still need a “FADE OUT.” on the ending.

    –Be careful of your formatting! Your grammar is remarkable, but the formatting is rough at times, so I had to grade you lower on that issue. IE the sluglines throughout the script are improperly formatted. The few parenthetical issues in dialogue in the beginning. The improper slugs for flashbacks. The exclusion of FADE OUT. at the end.

    CONCLUSION (SPOILER ALERT):

    You know, although there’s a crapload of dialogue and not much action in this script, I still enjoyed it. It seems long at times, ie the long runny dialogue and the not much action, but it was a quick, entertaining read. However, the ending really got to me. You make us sit through reading the entire script hoping (reminiscent of Sylvie’s need to hope) hoping for some good to come from these characters, but no hope ever really happens at the end. Danny and Jack will now have to go to war. Danny never really changes — his arc is weak, but yet it’s real. The script is very real. You do a great job of that. Keeping true to reality. However, that said, a film is suppose to entertain. Agents and producers want to entertain — they want excitement. That is where this script will be a hard sell. Although beautifully written, it will be a tough sell, unless you can get a rich ex-marine to invest and make it an indie film. This is definitely indie not commercial. The start is very slow — that’s why I suggest quickening the pace by shortening scenes, especially the opening scene. Regarding the end, I really want more — it’s very unsatisfying, ie Revolutionary Road unsatisfying. I mean even Monster’s Ball, although depressing had a satisfying ending — hardly any words are spoken but Hallie Berry excepts the ice cream Billy Bob gives her meaning there’s hope of them being happy together after a prolonged silence of us wondering “is she going to flip out at him!!” And then he says, “We’re going to be okay.” It made me as an audience member feel a sense a satisfaction.

    Beautifully masterful dialogue though, just a bit runny and long at times. Oh, and there is really no third act — yes, it begins after Goode and Danny talk serious, but nothing really happens — Danny graduates, Jack likes Sylvie (that may work out if someone calls… hopefully), and Danny never changes and is mad at life, ie his craving for the drug and he may even be mad at his mom — and now they both have to go to war — that freakin’ sucks! But it is realistic. Very realistic Indie script with an unsatisfying ending — I’d work on the end to try to make it a bit more satisfying and give better closure to the audience regarding Danny and his mom, just a hint that he loves her — I know that we should know this from the letters that he loves her, and through how “close” they are, but I’d like more as a reader — he can still have his craving and they can still go to war, but just some more closure between him and his mom something — maybe not a cry because he just did graduate Marine Corps training, but something positive…. To make us as the audience feel like everything is going to be okay… AND THEN hit us with the trade centers attack. Wow, really sucks that he didn’t take that Presidential Security Job now, huh.

    Also, you may want to add more action scenes in there because as is, I see it as a hard sell. The story and conflict among characters should be intensified for the next draft… a lot. Story is probably the weakest here. I do like learning about the marine training, but intensify it all! You do have your two storylines, so that’s a plus: A– Sylvie and Danny’s relationship (of course including Danny’s training); B– Sylvie and Jacks’ relationship. Act breaks work, not much Third Act though.

    Maybe the subtext is missing too, be weary of that. Since we are in Danny’s head in voice over through his letters, there really isn’t any subtext. No hints of his craving either anymore, except for his mother being concerned toward the beginning of the second act when she wonders but cannot ask in the letters. Show us more about his craving and how he handles it in the marine training, does he take it out through fights, maybe make his rougher and not disciplined and then he passes the test but refuses to take the job, and there is no hope for this kid, and no one knows that he’s hurting with this craving, maybe even someone there has the drug and he has to stay strong and deny it, or maybe he’s weak and does it. Possibly make Goode a bigger character, he knows Danny uses. There just needs to be more. Hope this helps you in the next draft and feel free to ask me any questions and I’ll be happy to answer. I’d be happy to help! Best!

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