Category: screenwriter

Spider-Man: Homecoming – A Screenwriter’s Review

Let’s get real here: Amazing Spider-Man 2 was shit. 

It was so shit that Sony decided to reboot the entire franchise rather than make the third planned film.

And dammit am I ever glad they did.

Spider-Man: Homecoming is my favorite Spidey flick since the first Tobey Maguire/Sam Raimi outing. Sure, the general consensus is that Spider-Man 2 is the best, but I still like the first one a little better. And first I should mention that I’ve been a long-time SM fan since my days as a comic book head in the early 90’s (aka the MacFarlane era), but I haven’t paid attention to the comic or it’s story lines after I stopped reading comics a very long time ago.

But with that said, I really liked Homecoming, it fired on all the right cylinders: a likable protagonist who the audience can relate to, a smoking hot Aunt May (played by a still smoking Marisa Tomei), great supporting characters, and an awesome antagonist, played by the newest comeback king on the block: Michael Keaton.

The movie probably could’ve been a titch shorter, 133 min, but that’s mainly me getting to a place in my storied movie watching career where anything over 2 hours is getting to be a chore. Still they manage to cram a LOT into that time, and the movie flew along at a great pace.

As much as I love breaking down structure in film, it’s really kind of pointless to discuss it here for a Hollywood blockbuster flick, as they all adhere to structure as a rule, like a moth to a flame. So I’ll just get into the other areas that I think Marvel just always seems to get right:  character and story.

CHARACTER

We really feel for Peter in this one, even more so than in the previous films. Tom Holland brings a great new take to the bespectacled hero (though Holland doesn’t wear glasses), a new vulnerability not seen in Maguire or Garfield’s performances. He’s genuinely excited to have these new powers, anxious to get out there and fight crime, to the point where he drives Happy Hogan up the proverbial wall. To the point where he screws up so bad that Tony takes his suit back from him, outright stating the theme of the film to Peter: “If you’re nothing without the suit, then you shouldn’t have it.” 

We also get to see how being the wall-crawler really fucks up Peter’s regular life. And, by the way, I’m SO glad they didn’t go all comic book 101 and have the bad guy kidnap a loved-one, that has to be the most played out trope in hero films. Beyond saving people’s life, he just wants to be a teenager in high school: go to the prom, kiss a girl, compete in a math competition, but Spider-Man just keeps messing up everything. There was a great balance between both lives, with there never being too much focus on one or the other.

And Peter’s ying was a perfect yang to Keaton’s Toomes/Vulture, a character in pretty much the same boat as Peter, minus being bitten by a radioactive creature of some kind. Keaton NAILS the baddie here. A guy that “made it on his own steam” (#namethatquote!) by scavenging parts from cleaning up after super-hero battles and stealing whatever else he could. He’s just a guy sick of being stepped over and trying to get ahead in life, which he did for the most part, albeit illegally. Even with how big a dick he’s being, you still kinda like Keaton’s Adrian Toomes, especially in his interactions with Peter Parker/Spider-Man. Then there’s the reveal (SPOILER ALERT) that he’s Peter’s girlfriend’s dad, I totally didn’t see that coming!!

Then there’s Ned, Peter’s bestie and some great comic relief. If there was one gripe was that sometimes it seemed a little too try-hard with Ned being the funny guy, but he played his role well. I really liked the decision to not go with the typical All-American jock guy to play Peter’s high school nemesis, Flash Gordon, instead going with a rich, smug type kid who reflects a modern take on bullying. Though his obsession with making fun of Peter, even going as far as to call him “Penis Parker” at a party he wasn’t even at anymore, made it seem like he has some bizarre fixation with him. There’s Peters love interest, Liz, another interesting take by going with a girl of color, and a senior that he barely talks to at first.

STORY

What I love about Marvel movies is they aren’t afraid to try something different with a franchise, and with HC it really paid off with the choice of characters. And it’s why they are continuing to kick DC’s ass, while destroying the box-office time and time again. I’m always excited to see the studios next film, even if it’s a character I’ve never paid much attention to, like Black Panther or Captain Marvel.

That being said, they didn’t really break the mold when crafting the story here, even with a writing team of six, yes SIX, screenwriters, one being the director John Watts. That sounds like one crazy writer’s room. Okay I know, feature films aren’t really written in writer’s rooms like with tv, but you get what I’m saying.

The story itself is pretty standard, with the usual archetypal characters, but the characters where so strong that they enhanced a rather by-the-numbers story (except that twist, DAYUM!!). I never mentioned Tony Stark in the character section mainly because RDJJ always does a great job, but he was the perfect mentor for Holland’s Peter Parker. A seasoned veteran in the super-hero game by now (to the point where he’s berating Peter via his suit while chilling at a party on the other side of the world), Stark is like the dad Parker always needed.

A dad that makes really dope suits full of cool gadgets, but isn’t afraid to put him in his place when he gets out of line. Stark taking the Spidey suit back from Peter was the perfect low point for the story, even though he isn’t totally powerless without it. This all leads perfectly into the ultimate all-is-lost moment, where Peter’s trapped under rubble, and the audience is literally thinking: “how’s he going to get out of this?!” With the power that’s been inside him all along of course!

“The power was inside them all along they just have to believe” is pretty much Hollywood storytelling 101, and here I was kinda hoping they’d try something different. Even though it was a kick to watch him lift that rubble off himself, because let’s be honest: we all want to see the hero win. And Spiderman: Homecoming was the hero’s journey to a T.

Yet, it was still immensely enjoyable. The same tropes, characters, and story lines are used over and over because they have proved successful with audiences time and time again. And if there’s one thing Hollywood does is stick to what works, until they drive it into the ground like Fred Flintstone with a foot cramp.

Thanks for reading.

Keep writing,

Tim

Proofread, Line Edit, Format Fixes

The service involves editing your dialogue and action description, to make sure your screenplay is clean and reads as fast as possible. Think of it like your screenplay needs to lose some weight, and once I’m done it’s a lean, mean, screenplay machine! I also fix grammatical and format errors.

Before my service:

screenplay-diet-aucoinink-before

After my service:

screenplay-diet-aucoinink

I go through your screenplay line-by-line, and edit your dialogue and description directly on the page using the original .fdx file ( Final Draft).

NOTE: this is not a rewrite of your existing work, just an edit of the dialogue and description on the page to make them as tight and readable as possible.

Press the button below to order the service.




Coverage

5 pages of extensive feedback on your script and suggestions on how to improve its story, structure, characters, formatting and dialogue which get your screenplay in the best possible shape it can be. Think of me like a trainer, but for screenplays.

screenplay-trainer

Coverage can be provided either with a minimum of five pages of notes or on-page sticky notes (PDF only). Read more about that here.

My script analysis gets right to the core of what’s working in your screenplay and, most importantly, how I can help you fix what’s not working. If you’re all in and ready to go, you can order by clicking the lovely button below this post.

Now the coverage part can vary depending on how deep down the rabbit hole you want to go. On average I write a minimum of 5 pages of notes. Any more than that we could work something out. Note that coverage can also be sometimes called analysis or story editing, just to not cause any confusion.


Script Coverage


Read an example of my coverage on my portfolio page.

– Tim

The Top 10 Mistakes Amateur Screenwriters Make

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I still consider myself an amateur, so don’t think this is coming from some place of superiority. But I’ve helped lots of screenwriters with less writing experience than me and I see a lot of the same mistakes crop up time and time again.

So seeing that lists rule, here’s my personal list of the top ten mistakes made by amateur screenwriters (in no particular order, other than # 1):

1). Bad Formatting

I put this very first because it’s the one I see the most and it’s SO important to have proper formatting if you’re going to submit to a production company or a contest. My most popular screenwriting service is editing/formatting fixes for a reason. No reader worth their salt will bother going past the first 5 pages if the formatting is crap. With the availability of free screenwriting programs such as Trelby or Celtx, there’s really no excuse. I’ve used both of the aforementioned programs and prefer Trelby for it’s simplicity and compatibility with the industry standard Final Draft.

2). Writing For A Big Budget

Hey I’m not telling you to NOT write that 200 page, 500 million blockbuster with Will Smith and Brad Pitt fighting off aliens from the planet Oprah. But the odds of that being sold over a small, 90-page, indie-minded script that could be made for under a million are slimmer than Eminem circa 1999. As a new screenwriter, doesn’t it make more sense to write something with few characters and locations thus making it more appealing to a production company? Exactly. I mean it worked out for that guy that wrote a little film about dogs and a reservoir ( 😛 ). So there’s no need to create more roadblocks than there already are to your screenwriting success.

3). Not Asking For Feedback

In order to know you’re on the “write” track (see what I did there?) you need to get feedback on your writing. Whether it’s your mom or a professional service of some sort it helps to get notes to know what’s working and what’s not when it’s time to tackle the dreaded re-write. Just be sure to wait until you’re finished a first draft before you start shelling out the bling if you decide to go the pro service route. Which leads me to my next point…

4). Asking For Feedback Too Soon

You’d be surprised how many writers have contacted me with messages like “I just wrote the first 5 pages of my script can you give me notes?” As much as I’d like to take some poor sap’s money I have this annoying little thing called a conscience. So I usually reply telling them to at least write a first draft before paying someone for notes.

5). Not Learning The Craft

It amazes me how so many new writers just start writing a screenplay without knowing anything about it. While I admire their gumption (finally found a reason to use that word!) they should at least do some research before writing FADE IN. When I finally made the decision a few years ago to take screenwriting seriously, I went online and read articles, joined forums, listened to podcasts and eventually took the writing program at Vancouver Film School. And it turned out I already knew a lot just from things I learned on my own. While some of my fellow classmates hadn’t even read a screenplay before! I’m not saying you need to go into debt like I did to learn the craft, but a least read a couple screenplays before you start.

6). Unoriginal Stories

Coming up with new and original screenplay ideas is hard these days. It seems like everything’s been done. And it’s not like Hollywood is bursting with new ideas either. But that doesn’t mean you should be lazy with your story. You just have to take something that’s already been done and put a new spin on it, like what Evan Daugherty did with Snow White And The Huntsman. Sure the movie didn’t turn out to change the face of cinema, but it did result in Daugherty’s scoring a 3.2 million payday. It could also be worth your time to check out public domain stories that could be adapted for the big (or small) screen.

7). Cliched & On-The-Nose Dialog

There’s no way around it: your dialog has to be exceptional to make any kind of impression these days. So it’s surprising to still be reading scripts with bland and cliched dialog. Here’s a tip: say it out loud after you write it. If it sounds bad, it’s ’cause it is. Or better yet, get some friends together for a table read. And check out Scott Meyers from Go Into The Story’s awesome “Definitive List Of Cliched Dialog” post. It’s a great read. And if you’re unsure what on-the-nose dialog is, then you’re probably guilty of it.

8). Thinking Their Script Is The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread

Okay maybe your “Chinatown” meets “The Matrix” screenplay will start a balls-out bidding war, or maybe it’s a pile of crap. It’s hard to not toot your own horn when it comes to your own writing, I’m totally guilty of it myself. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people post on a forum saying their script is so amazing and “there’s no way this won’t sell” only to read it to see they can’t even format properly (Can you tell I’m a formatting Nazi?). Being objective about your own work ain’t easy, which is why getting feedback is so important.

9). Breaking The Rules & Not Following Structure

This kind of goes back to point #5, but structure is it’s own beast. I’m not a fan of rules myself but structure was the BIGGEST thing I learned in film school that completely changed (and drastically improved) my writing. The basic three-act structure of a screenplay isn’t hard to learn; it’s a tried and true method to writing one for a reason. Sure you might hear other writers say that adhering too strictly to it is “ruining screenwriting” and blah, blah, but you must learn the rules before you can break them.

10). More Interested In Selling Than Writing

The number one question I see asked by amateurs on forums and groups is “How do I sell my screenplay?” And I can bet more than half of these people haven’t even started writing a thing, yet they’re already asking how they can make money off it. It’s like they think screenwriting is some get rich quick scheme where you simply write it, sell it, then BOOM, you’re a millionaire. This is the wrong attitude right out of the gate. Yes, screenwriting is absolutely a business, but if money is your ultimate goal then you’ve already set yourself up for a huge disappointment.

Here’s hoping I haven’t totally crushed your dreams.

Happy Writing!

– Tim