Monday, July 25, 2005




Wicked steel and glass spires tower over the rest of the landscape. As if Satan's sharp fingers erupted out of hell.

The sun bakes the elements to a burnt orange, but as the SUN retreats from the NIGHT...

And the DAY PEOPLE head home to the comfort and safety of their naivete...

THE NEON glows hot...

The SHADOWS lengthen...

And it becomes a different world. One where the NIGHT PEOPLE come out to play in the thick, wet shadows of this chiaroscuro city...


A MAN is dragged into frame by five SHADOWS. The man is powerfully built, but bound with heavy cord.

A burlap sack covers his face, but...

There's a small hole in the bag. He can see his tormentors through it. Everything is erratic, painful, distorted.

The SHADOWS are men, dressed in good suits, though we still can't see their faces.

They arrive at a POST driven into the ground and surrounded by STACKS OF TIRES.

Please! Why are you doing this?


The Shadows quickly lash him to the post...

One SHADOW pours gasoline over him, and we quickly realize this isn't a man...

This is a victim.

No! Please! No!
(c) 2005 by Bill Cunningham
And so, begins the story of THE SKULL.
This is page one, first draft.
I will post my revised page one in about a week...


Rock said...

Damn. that's a hell of a setup.
Except, you realize that you must now give us more, right! :-)

Come on man, just the first five pages, I'm not asking for much. Come on man, I needs this!

-Spoken like a true addict!

Steve Peterson said...

I always find evaluating a page or five out of the context of the script difficult. That said, nice opening. I could see the colors in the first scene.

The second scene works well too -- it struck me that you might be going for the effect of showing this powerfully built man screaming like a child but I'm not sure if that comes through from the description. And, depending on the intended effect, I'm not sure if the "please"'s work. If it's wild-eyed pleading maybe more incoherent -- sobs mixed with partial and repeated words and snot dripping from his nose.

Alternately -- a little reversal with the tough guy fighting at first and cussing out his captors, then switching over to the wild-eyed pleading once the gasoline hits him.

John Donald Carlucci said...

I like it, but there isn't enough yet to give you any real feedback.


Have you considered placing the whole burning-man scene on top of one of the buildings? Possibly, the whole scene plays out on one of the helipads. I would be very intrigued by a group of well-dressed men performing this action in the middle of this city of wicked steel.


Bill Cunningham said...

Remember your budget John...I think it would look cool too, but it could never be shot.

John Donald Carlucci said...

Ah, I wasn't certain what the script was shooting for - the industrial junkyard is perfect then.


The Awful Writer said...

Nice start. Definately makes me want to read more. Just a couple of comments.

It seems a bit cap-happy. SUN, NIGHT, DAY PEOPLE, THE NEON, The SHADOWS lengthen..., NIGHT PEOPLE
I know this is a matter of taste/style, but for me those don't need to be all-caps.

The (pleading) parenthetical is redundent. It's clear from the context that MAN is pleading.

The line 'and we quickly realize this isn't a man...' confused me on first reading. Who's not a man, the SHADOW or the man? You might want to tweak that a bit.

Anonymous said...

Bill --

I found it kind of interesting to read this and evaluate the budget considerations for this page. (I believe the Skull is designed to be a low-budget production right? A million or under maybe?)

Your first sequence, L.A. sunset, is probably something that you could dig out of stock footage right?

The second sequence, the attack, focuses on the man who'll probably become the protagonist and his five attackers. Oh, and it takes place in a junkyard. I'm guessing that you placed it in a junkyard because junkyards are everywhere and you could find a good one to shoot in no problem. Add in the pole the attackers tie the guy to and you've got a fairly cheap set. The five attackers though. How much do they get paid? If they're just day players and you use them for only one scene would the producers consider that a waste? Or do you end up shooting two scenes with them? One in the morning and then another at night?

I recently listened to Bill Martell's CD about writing low-budget movies and he brings up a lot interesting ways to use locations and actors, etc. Like how to maximize Dennis Hopper (or a similar level talent) if you've only got him for a day or so.

Anyway, just curious.


Curt said...

Okay, this isn't much to go on, Bill, but here's my take on it. If the man about to get burned is the guy who's going to become the Skull, the tone needs to change--at least, if you're modeling him on Kriminal, Killing, etc. Those aren't good guys, and they aren't even "anti-heroes"; they're celebrated VILLAIN protagonists. I was leafing through Kriminal last night after reading your setup here. He shoots a pursuing cop at point blank in the face. He pickaxes a prison guard. He buries a hatchet in some other guy's skull. When a girl is trying to escape him by climbing over a fence, he yanks her down so that she's impaled on the spikes. He does get hurt sometimes--even horribly, but he's never a victim.

For a reference scene that strikes a tone more appropriate for that kind of character, check out the opening of Mario Bava's BLACK SUNDAY. Asa the witch is bound to a stake for burning (not unlike your character!), but she remains intimidating and disdainful of her captors.

I don't know any of the backstory leading into this scene, but a latent villainy should be there, too. If it isn't, that might be easier to tweak than it first seems. Whatever he's doing, and whatever noble motive he might pretend to have, just establish that it's really an underlying sadism or power-trip that drives him.

Well, that's just my two-cents. I hope it's helpful! By the way, you do a great job of describing the establishing shot. Can't wait to see the rest!

RogerRmjet said...

Very interesting writing for a low budget. It really gets you thinking. I just finished my first "written-specifically-for-D2DVD" script, I found a number of things that I wanted to write, but didn't due to budget constraints -- things that would require additional locations, more actors, etc. It's a fun challenge and forces you to be more creative. I've found one thing that helps is to watch a lot of old studio movies. A number of pictures were written for minimal sets and casts. Ransom (Glenn Ford) and Key Largo are two great examples.

Bill Cunningham said...

In this script I can tell you there are five- six major locations - mostly interiors, which if we're smart can be four if we double up some locations.

I've always kept my scripting simple because simpler is better for everyone - If you make your days then you can add to the material and make it bigger and better. That doesn't mean the ideas aren't sophisticated - it means that the material is more accessible. Kind of like the JLU cartoons if you get the reference.

I'm doing this to show everyone what works and what doesn't and how the outlining and rewriting process is key to making this work. You approach it knowing you have x amount of locations, extras, etc...spread over x amount of days. You engage in pre-production before you write it.

I learned a lot of this by studying the stuff Bill Martell has written about over on his site, and adapting it to work for me and the budgets and schedules I've worked with... Check his articles out and they'll help you considerably.

By adding practical production technique to your writing, you stand a better chance of making that first sale. If it can't be produced on budget they have - it's a PASS...

I'll show you the revised page one next week.

Shaun said...

Hasn't a week passed yet? I wanna read more. Give me more. I look forward to seeing how you revised this and what changes you made. So far so good.