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The Doane Gang

Based on actual characters and events, The Doane Gang tells the story of a group of young Quakers, who outraged by the perceived mistreatment of their community, become outlaws during the American Revolution, stealing from the Continental Army and spying for the British.

Monologue: pages 3, 4


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  1. Profile photo of
    March 10, 2016, 12:45 pm
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    I love the concept! Period scripts are challenging to get get right and this one is very close to it.This is a great start but it needs to be refocused.

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    ejeske says
    September 10, 2012, 8:22 pm
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    Overall, this is a good start but the script definitely needs a rewrite and some polish.

    This was a unique and interesting story, occurring at a volatile time in our country’s history but one of the problems I had with it from the get go is that you are telling it from the point of view of a gang that goes up against the US and spies for the British. This could be a hard sell. They are traitors, so it is hard to root for them. More sympathy could be built up for them. They don’t want to fight but no one is forced to or drafted. They might lose their land if they don’t pay their taxes but we don’t see any real threat as no one has lost their farm yet. Giving a little more motivation might help the audience feel for them.

    The biggest problem with this script though is its presentation. I was taken out of the story so many times because of easily fixed errors. It could use a run through a screenwriting software program like Final Draft to help eliminate the spacing and margin issues. The action lines need to be cut down. Action lines should be 4 lines maximum. (one chunk was 15 lines long!) These can be broken up so it flows and reads better. Dashes should not be used instead of commas in the dialogue. Some of the parentheticals are too long and unnecessary. (ex. Rachel pg. 60) They should be used sparingly and many of them could be put in the action line. Ellipses should be … not . . . A good book to check out for formatting is The Hollywood Standard.

    I think the structure was pretty good. The act breaks seem to be in the right places. The b-story/subplots of the Continental Army generals and men worked and threaded through well.

    The plot of the script progresses well and has a cohesive narrative. The story is interesting and original. The dramatic stakes might have to be raised a little more. Let’s see what will happen if they fail in their goals. The setup is good but I think it can be explored more. Joseph’s fight with what he believes(faith) and what must be done(good of the family) can be explored more as well as the gangs inner turmoil of going against their beliefs. Is Joseph or Moses driving the plot? I wasn’t really sure whose story this was. It seemed like Moses’ story to me even though you open and close with Joseph. Some of the scenes felt repetitive by having the same things said but just in different locales.

    The pacing in the script was hurt by the spacing and action line problems. Just tightening these up would help the script read a lot better. Economization of language is also key. You are a good writer and your prose and descriptions are good, but sometimes it’s better to get to it. Say what you want to say in the least possible words and make those words count.

    Your characters are pretty believable but they could be fleshed out a little more. I’d like to see a little more dimension as to why they believe the way they do and what drives them. You might want to consider combining a few characters to streamline. These supporting characters are there to help your protagonist and story explore the theme. If two are doing the job of one, combine. There are also a lot of minor characters that are introduced even into the third act. Do you need them all? I really liked Levi. His blind love and loyalty to Moses really gave the script some depth. I was not emotionally invested though in whether they achieved their goals. Joseph makes a minor case with him having a tough time joining the gang and his struggle with what they are doing but he still takes his share at the end. Does he learn or grow throughout the story? Is he even meant to? The antagonists could use a little more fleshing too. I like Melchin and if he is their antagonist, I would like to see a little more of him throughout the story.

    Dialogue flowed and felt proper for the time and location.

    I liked the style and the descriptions were vivid and engaging. You really get put in the environment and it was easy to visualize. You do tend to go a little novelistic though. The tone was good. It suit the genre and stays consistent throughout the script.

    The script had some good setups and payoffs. Maye is a great one! Moses meets her and helps her. She helps in return and shows up later when they need a place to hide. Colonel Rall is another good example. He doesn’t listen and we later see what happens to him.

    I felt a little cheated with Moses’ death. It was just a little too quick and easy. It could have had more impact.

    I liked where you were going with the bookending of the script but I didn’t understand what it did for the story. It didn’t give me any emotional punch at the end. Has Joseph learned anything over these 50 years? Why does he wait so long to come back and get the money? Does he deserve that money? Isn’t it blood money? Does it coincide with his faith? By the time he comes back for it, we don’t know what has happened in those 50 years.

    There seemed to be a struggle between staying too historically accurate and taking some poetic license with the script. It is a screenplay and should be free to explore some of those “Hollywood” story beats and emotional punches.

    Congratulations. You have done what many others have not, you wrote a screenplay. Now it’s all in the rewriting.


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  3. says
    August 16, 2012, 6:03 pm
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    Hey Holly, Thanks for the opportunity to read your screenplay.

    I enjoyed the story quite a lot. I felt the mood was appropriate and the language suited the era. I would, however, suggest being a little looser with the dialogue. You can certainly afford to throw in some apostrophes. Let’s is easier to read than Let us. You loosen up later in the screenplay but the beginning is kinda stiff.

    I think the opening is a bit superfluous after finishing. The part with the natives was fine to show moses is his own master, but the part with the indian maiden leads us to believe he will have emotional attachments, but he never once reconnects with the native maiden. I’m not quite sure why the inclusion of the native wrestler trying to burn down Mary’s place was significant.

    You have a fluid, interesting style of prose that is interesting to read, however, your action texts are placed in big meaty blocks on the page (which is a turn off for pro readers). Try capping it at 4 lines, space, then another 4 lines if necessary.

    I was disheartened to learn that the gang started out with semi-noble intentions then devolved into such a ruthless villainous state. But, if that’s history, then so be it. I would have preferred the man to die at the hands of the posse be Levis or Abraham. At least if Abraham dies the audience will feel “Good” I didn’t like him anyway. That would leave Moses to try to get his younger brother to safety…and ultimately fail in a last stand.

    My running notes follow. Thanks again, and good luck.

    Page One
    Try to number the pages with Page 1 being the first page of the screenplay rather than the title page.

    For character intros, it is helpful to include the age. I don’t know if the first character I see is twelve or twenty.

    I’ll mention this now and once only. By rewording the text to avoid danglers you can save an entire line, thereby cutting pages off your script. In the first passage, “snow”, sits on a line allby itself. Fit it into the rest to save the line. Goes for dialog too.

    Blocks of text should be capped at 4 lines (not 4 sentences). White space is king. You can leave a space and continue action text by dividing natural camera angle switches.

    Joseph, 70, …

    Already, half-way down page one, I’m confused by the name Joseph. Is Joseph the Younger 70 years old? Is it Joseph Senior? If it is Joe Sr, really be sure to let us know when he is introduced that two people are in the scene and they are both named Joe. The futher I read I realize that it’s only one guy, which leads me to believe your intro of the character should all be concisely written in one passage.

    through the snow-covered cemetery, (can delete this)

    Page 2
    It seems like most of your action sentences begin with Joseph. It is fine to use pronouns like “he” if it is obvious Joseph is the only one available to perform the action. It would provide a smoother read.

    Page 3
    use versatile words that do heavy lifting. This passage: He walks into the abandoned barn. There are wooden boards scattered about. Part of the roof of the barn has collapsed. — Can be replaced by a shorter, equally descriptive sentence: He walks into the partially-collapsed barn. (we can visualize what it looks like without you having to tell us about the boards on the ground.)

    Using the faint light of the lantern, he slowly makes his way through the debris in the barn then stops. (you can delete this line, we already know he has a lantern, we already know his pace, so telling us he walks slowly is redundant. Remember, it’s a blue-print for a movie, not a novel.)

    When Joseph descends down the trap door into whatever room is down there, the scene has a different location, so you’ll need to provide another slugline. INT. BARN – CELLAR – NIGHT.

    MOSES DOANE and a YOUNG BRAVE wrestle amidst a crowd of cheering braves. (Whenever you have the word “looks or smiles or moves” there is likely a better way to word things.)

    Page 4
    Moses gently… passionately. (Very big block of text. You have to break it up to make it easier on the eye for readers. You obviously have a talent for prose which leads me to think you’ve written a novel or short stories. Get used to the idea that this is screenwriting, pro readers hate chunks of text.)

    Page 5
    Not sure, but looks like the dialog margins are too wide. If you did this deliberately to shorten the appearance of the screenplay, it doesn’t work.
    “our brother Moses” not even quakers talk that on-the-nose. Delete “our brother”.

    Page 6.
    Odd space in the middle of action passage.

    Page 8.
    Does Moses react in any way to Maye final comment?

    Although I find it a smooth read due to the absence of spelling mistakes, the read is slowed down quite a bit by the absence of contractions. You can still sound like the times even if you use it’s or let’s, instead of it is and let us.

    page 9
    Levi searches the crowd with his eyes. (Levi scans the crowd).

    Page 11
    You – Mary Doremy – will never become a spinster. (Dashes serve a specific grammatical purpose. Use commas when appropriate. You, Mary Doremy, will never…)

    Page 15
    If the threat of running the Doane’s out of the county is the inciting incident, it comes fairly late at page 15. Standard is arounf ten. The reason it’s important is that pro readers will often only read the first ten before deciding to read more or pass. If the conflict doesn’t come til page 15, they might not be interested enough to continue to find out what it is.

    Page 16
    The dialog is quite on-the-nose.

    Page 17
    Seven older men in eighteenth century Quaker suits are standing between (Seven elder Quakers stand between…)

    DANIEL MASON, 60, stands…

    Page 19
    Be sure that page breaks do not accidentally separate names from their dialog.

    Moses has good dialog here.

    Page 20
    Do youself a favor and invest in screenwriting software. Or get Celtx, which is free. The spacing seems sporadic.

    Page 30
    Is there a way that Moses could be in a more discrete location so the officers might talk freely about this. Seems they would not want to be overheard.

    I like the events leading to and the conclusion of the Doremy assault.

    page 44
    He scrapes away

    JOSEPH – It was my choice to begin this with you. You are not to blame. Always remember that it was my choice. (does he really think this? I figured he would be silent, perhaps resentful.)

    Page 51.
    Admiral Howe whispers in Howe’s ear?

    Page 74.
    It doesn’t mention Howe being there, does it?

    Page 78
    then slowly sinks to the floor of the porch.

    Page 93
    Perhaps a more apt term would have been The Canadas (at the time).

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    • says
      August 16, 2012, 8:45 pm

      When I tried to validate my review on this screenplay, I found the test questions difficult to answer based on perspective. Was there, or wasn’t there a “fire”? Did the main character have children? (I guess it depends who you see as the main character).

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    tserlin says
    August 16, 2012, 1:57 pm
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    Congratulations on a really interesting script. It certainly was a great peek into a cool historical subject, and you did a good job exploring it. Your writing is clean and descriptive. Quite excellent actually, and your narrative style would suggest to me that you could write a great novel and have a nose for the historical aspects of this period. However, there are large issues with the screenplay format, appearance, and writing that should be addressed in any further development. Most of the following notes are very critical, because that’s what will help you the most in determining where to focus on your rewrites. You are clearly a strong writer. So, I am not going to sugar coat much of this, because you need critical feedback. Please take it all with a grain of salt, and hopefully you will find value in my comments.

    You immediately cast us into an evocative world, lanterns and trapdoors. And you have a nice way of making the visual narrative come alive. Your tactic of book-ending with Joseph at the barn, picking up some of his treasure is very effective, and one of the most memorable elements in the script. As this is his story, a bit more attention on his development in act one will add tremendously to the script. His internal conflict and response to the external world are critical aspects for your audience to embrace his character (his family, the nature of their struggle, the inciting incident, and his acceptance for entering the “journey”). You have all the elements in the story to pull out more compelling aspects to his character – all of which will make him more effective and memorable.

    First suggestion: reduce the paragraphs into smaller pieces – so the reader doesn’t face a wall of words and become immediately “turned off.” At many points, the script reads like a novel – and you don’t want that, trust me. Your action sequences don’t flow as well as they could simply because of the paragraph form. Scripts should read quickly. Break these sections up.

    Second suggestion: read a few produced scripts similar to this period (or any type of “gang” meets “Robin Hood” script). You will get so much out of doing this that will elevate your writing – in proper screenplay format. When you see how action sequences can be structured to hasten the pace, it will help you tremendously.

    Jumping right into a flashback as Joseph is just opening the trunk might be too quick. We haven’t gotten to know him at all and you are thrusting us away from him. Possibly rethink that – although the imagery is excellent! If you take just a little longer, it might be more effective. I like the book ends, but we need a bit more time with him before going back in time.

    Lots of characters introduced right away – it was hard to keep them all straight. And you constantly introduce more characters, which at times dilutes the focal ones. Think about who is utterly necessary.

    Understanding and appreciating the period for this, you do a nice job of painting the picture. In terms of dialogue, you may wish to differentiate a bit more between your characters. I understand the vernacular and time element drives the way these people speak, but you still don’t want them all sounding alike. There is so much dialogue that feels repetitive and overly expositive — it flattens the story. It is so much better to SHOW not tell. There were points that it felt like these were simply talking heads telling the audience a story… This is not a novel. This is not a stage play. This needs to be more filmic. How do they look when they talk to each other. What little things do they do while talking (anything that informs us about their character). We need to see more of this…all the time!

    One this same note… there is a clear need for emotional depth. In your rewrites, I definitely suggest focusing more on this – bring your characters to life in a way that mirrors the action. For example, Joseph the Elder and Moses sound almost too “robotic” when discussing life and family responsibilities. We don’t really see into their emotion, expression, physical mannerisms. The context is there, and you serve it up effectively. Now, focus on your characters. Even when they are discussing the dire situation with faith/taxes/encroachment on their way of life, the script reads flat and overly expository – due especially to the lack of emotional thrust. When Joseph the Elder really lays into Moses, it is too on the nose and one-dimensional. On page 30 – with Joseph the Younger’s comment: “You have that look in your eye, Moses” – this is a perfect example. WHAT DO WE SEE? This is not a stage play. It is a visual narrative. Again, you have laid a nice framework; now you need to elevate it and excite your audience with evocative and dynamic characters.

    There are several formatting and spacing inconsistencies. Decide on a style and stick with it. Your sluglines are all uneven and this needs to be corrected. Especially when you are inviting a reader into something historical (spacing sentences in dialogue is important). You want the reader to move quickly, and not stumble on this stuff.

    One page 59 – Rachel calls Joseph out on his choices and reveals her pregnancy. This felt like one of the first real times we experience emotional drama. It is excellent. Try to apply this intensity to every scene you can.

    Act two seems much stronger. Kennedy’s reversal (page 79) is also strong. There is an emotional reaction. We simply need more of this for all of your essential characters.

    The chase with Joseph is action-oriented and well described. It still can be elevated. Who are we really rooting for? Is there suspense you can add? If this sequence is more exciting before Joseph gets shot in the face, it would elevate the script.

    Out of curiosity, why did you add the “e” to Doane? While I am no expert, but have a little familiarity with the subject matter, I wonder about this choice. Ultimately, it will matter when you try to get this produced. And History/Lifetime Channels – made for TV might be a very plausible route for you to take when ready.

    In terms of commerciality, there is a bit of limitation with this largely due to the period and the need for a dramatic overhaul. Focus on each character and build them up, to the point we are compelled by all of their dramatic tension, relationship elements, traits, and conflicts.

    It is clear from reading that you are a talented writer. Working this out to read faster, infusing more compelling aspects to your characters, and showing us more active threads and less superfluous (flat) dialogue will raise the quality of the script and add to its marketability.

    Best of luck!

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