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The following Deluxe Coverage Development Notes are a sample of the extensive studio-style screenplay development notes that you can expect from your development executive. 

NOTE: For sample of (Standard) Coverage report, click here.

Sample Deluxe Screenplay Coverage Development Notes

from StudioNotes Development Executives

JOYRIDE by Clay Tarver & J.J. Abrams

121 Pages




Wyoming, Nebraska, New Jersey, Colorado







LOGLINE:   Two brothers driving cross-country play a practical joke on a sinister trucker, forcing them to road trip for their lives.

CONTENT SUMMARY:   Though blessed with strong characters and memorable dialogue, JOY RIDE is hampered by a wobbly structure that allows the story to meander way too much.









Story Line:








SYNOPSIS:   LEWIS THOMAS is a very happy Stanford freshman, and it's not because it's Christmas Break.  Lewis has had a crush on VENNA since they were kids back in Jersey.  Now he has a foolproof plan to turn this platonic relationship into a torrid romance.  He'll drive to Colorado, pick Venna up at her university, and then take the interstate all the way back to the East Coast.  Taking this long, cross-country trip will give shy, tentative Lewis ample time to bond with Venna -- and hopefully make her his main squeeze.

But as he zooms towards Colorado in his newly-purchased '79 Impala, Lewis makes a fateful decision.  He detours to Salt Lake City to bail out his older brother Fuller, stuck in jail on a drunk-and-disorderly charge.  Fuller is the exact opposite of Lewis: he's a free-spirit who's not afraid to show his emotions, especially towards pretty girls.  Unfortunately, he's also an irresponsible lunkhead with a self-destructive streak a mile long. Fast-talking Fuller convinces Lewis to take him as far as Colorado, where he supposedly has a job opportunity waiting for him.

As they get under way, Fuller buys a CB radio to make the boring drive go faster.  Amongst all the different voices they hear on the airwaves, the creepiest is from a trucker named "RUSTY NAIL."  This guy sounds like a combination of Gomer Pyle and the Devil.  So fun-loving Fuller gets an idea: let's play a practical joke on this dude!  He wants Lewis to pretend he's a female trucker named Candy Cane.  "Candy Cane" will then invite Rusty back to her hotel (actually the hotel Lewis and Fuller are staying at) for a romantic rendezvous at 1 A.M.  Of course, Lewis will actually be inviting Rusty to the room next door to his, one containing a loudmouth named ELLINGHOUSE.  Lewis and Fuller will then sit back and laugh as the lovelorn trucker and jerk-off businessman start yelling at each other.

Now at first, Lewis is Mr. Responsible -- he doesn't want to have anything to do with this.  But part of him secretly wants to be wild-at-heart like his bro.  So he goes along with the gag and "asks" Rusty Nail out on a date.  And the gullible Rusty takes the bait.

But this joke doesn't go like the brothers expect.  When Rusty Nail finds out Candy Cane isn't waiting for him after all, this force of nature proceeds to beat Ellinghouse into a coma.  And when he finds out Lewis and Fuller were behind the whole thing, he and his eighteen-wheeler chase the boys all over the deserted, nighttime roads of Wyoming.  Rusty Nail's rig finally pins the Impala to a tree -- Lewis and Fuller think they're going to be pancaked.  But when the brothers apologize for the joke over the CB, Rusty Nail inexplicably backs up his truck and disappears into the night.

Grateful to be still breathing, Lewis and Fuller continue on to pick up Venna.  Lewis decides not to tell her about Rusty Nail for fear she'll freak.  But he has a more pressing problem on his hands.  The ever-impulsive Fuller is totally smitten by Venna, and immediately starts hitting on her.  And since Fuller has decided to return to Jersey with his brother, Lewis is going to have to compete for Venna's affections all the way home.

This sudden love triangle is about to turn one brother against the other when Rusty Nail's voice begins taunting them over the CB.  This psycho has kidnapped Venna's roommate CHARLOTTE, so they better do what he says or she's roadkill.  Rusty wants to humiliate the brothers like he was humiliated -- he forces them to strip naked and stroll into a crowded Nebraska truck stop.  But the boys catch a break when Venna spots Rusty's rig leaving the parking lot.  The Impala runs the truck off the road and Fuller beats the driver to within an inch of his life -- but it's the wrong guy!  Rusty Nail's truck is actually parked at a different location.  And it has two corpses inside: one's Rusty, a shotgun-suicide, and the other is Charlotte, hanging in the rear of the semi like a piece of ripped meat.

Shocked and devastated, Lewis, Fuller and Venna fly back to New Jersey.  Venna blames Lewis for Charlotte's death, and even when he professes his love for her, can't bear to see him.  But someone else can: Rusty Nail.  As far as Rusty is concerned, Venna is Candy Cane and she's gonna be his.  So he kidnaps her right out of her house and speeds away in his rig.

Lewis and Fuller fly after them like a two-man posse.  Fuller tries to block Rusty's truck with the family car, but nearly gets flattened for his trouble.  So Venna has to escape herself -- she bashes Rusty's face in with a fender and scoots out of the rig.  The indestructible Rusty brushes this love-tap off and continues to chase Venna on foot.  He corners her on the nighttime suburban streets, about to smother her in his grip.  Then Lewis comes to the rescue with an eighteen-wheel cavalry -- he commandeers Rusty's cab and squashes the maniac with his own truck.

FIRST TEN PAGES:   The first ten pages of a script are supposed to let the reader know where the story's headed.  JOY RIDE fails to do that.  Instead, we awkwardly shift from a light romantic comedy to a dark psychodrama about two estranged brothers.  And we haven't even gotten to the "trucker from hell" premise yet.

The writers must intro Rusty Nail by Page 10 so the reader knows where the story's going. Otherwise he will soon lose interest.

STRUCTURE:   The structure of JOY RIDE is its biggest problem.  This is a story where the narrative momentum keeps stalling out, like a car jerking forward in fits and starts.

In those extremely important first ten pages, the script lurches clumsily from teen romance to family drama.  It's only in the second sequence (pages 15-30) that Rusty Nail is even introduced.  And it takes till Page 30 for the boys to finally play that practical joke on him.  But at least the "trucker from hell" premise has kicked in and the story's moving forward.

And it's a pretty good story, too -- for two more sequences (Page 30-60), Rusty Nail plays cat-and-mouse with the brothers, culminating in a scene where he nearly crushes them flat with his truck.  But after the boys apologize for the joke, Rusty Nail disappears from the story...along with any suspense his presence created.

At the script's mid-point, Lewis and Fuller pick up Venna and head for home.  With Rusty Nail out of the picture, the threat (and momentum) evaporates, causing the story to meander once again.  We have to slog through a trite love triangle for nearly fifteen pages till Rusty Nail returns.  By then, unfortunately, the structure of the script has become so diffuse the reader has lost interest.

Still, Rusty Nail's encore eventually ratchets up the suspense.  From 75 to 95 we return to spellbinding thriller mode.  Then Rusty Nail kills himself and the threat is gone for good.

Of course, things are never this easy in thrillers.  We just know Rusty Nail is out there, following our trio back to New Jersey.  The trouble is we have to wait another ten pages for the bad guy to show his face.  As we tap our feet in frustration, we have to endure another DAWSON'S CREEK episode where Lewis tries to apologize to Venna.  This stops the story dead in its tracks.  By the time Rusty shows up for the final round (allowing Lewis to nail him for good, no pun intended), we're more bored than entertained.

For JOY RIDE's structure to work, it must stick to the Rusty Nail throughline.  The romantic digressions need to be reduced and more Rusty put in their place.  This will generate the momentum and suspense the script needs to succeed.

WRITING STYLE/DIALOGUE:   The best scripts have a lot of "white on the page."  That is, they are not filled with overly-dense scene description that makes the script a chore to read.  Fortunately, JOY RIDE's scene description is economically composed, getting across the gist of the scene in as few words as possible.  This doesn't mean the scenes are underwritten to the point of confusion -- on the contrary, at no point does the reader lose track of what's going on in the story, and that's a great tribute to the writers.

Better yet, the description is composed in a colloquial style the reader immediately warms to.  Now this doesn't mean that the word choice is mundane.  In fact, the writers make sure to sprinkle flavorful idiom throughout the script to spike up the energy.  Verbs like "spider-webs," adjectives like "comically-sexy" and nouns like "mitt" (for a really huge hand) give the description a great deal of verve, and the reader a great deal of pleasure.

This pleasure carries over to the dialogue.  In many scripts, dialogue is written so blandly it's interchangeable from character to character.  To JOY RIDE's credit, the lead characters speak in very distinctive voices, making them much more memorable to the reader.

Lewis' lines come across as tentative and conflicted; sometimes short and curt, other times brash and wild, just like his good boy/bad boy character.  Since Fuller is an id with feet, often blurting out whatever he wants without regard to consequences, his dialogue reflects that as well.  Venna's transformation from perky co-ed to steely-eyed survivor is also expertly portrayed via dialogue that goes from cheeky innuendo to grim phrases of determination.  Finally, Rusty Nail has the most distinctive voice of the bunch, saying exactly what's on his murderous mind in a deliberate cadence reminiscent of an Old Testament prophet pronouncing omens of doom.

ACT BREAKS/SCENE TRANSITIONS:   Though the structure of JOY RIDE leaves much to be desired, both act breaks are very well-placed.  At the First Act Break, Lewis and Fuller's joke has just backfired, earning the undying enmity of Rusty Nail.  This development propels our protagonists through the entire Second Act, as they try to stay one step ahead of this madman.  The Second Act Break is also well-timed.  Rusty Nail has (supposedly) just committed suicide, while Venna's roommate Charlotte is a stone cold corpse in the back of his truck.  One story ends (Nail's reign of terror) while another begins (Lewis' attempt to win Venna back), and the act break is positioned perfectly between the two.

The scene transitions are also written in a yeoman manner.  The story flows smoothly from scene to scene; not once do we get confused over where we are, what is happening and whom it's happening to.  That's quite an achievement considering the wide variety of locales.

CHARACTERS:   JOY RIDE's weak structure has one benefit -- it makes the characters richer.  That's because the dead spots in the story give them time to develop.

The trio of lead characters is extremely well-etched.  Lewis is the good kid who's afraid of showing his true feelings, especially towards Venna.  The opening scenes beautifully set up his character: he's at once strong and responsible (especially in bailing out his brother when he's in a jam) and wild and impulsive (as when he chooses to drive Venna all the way from Colorado to New Jersey).  These contradictory elements come into play when the "good kid" finds himself seduced by the even more wild and impulsive Fuller into doing things he normally wouldn't.

Fuller is similarly conflicted.  He's grateful to his brother for bailing him out, but his ego won't let him be second fiddle.  So in order to show him who's boss he not only makes Lewis mess with Rusty Nail, he starts hitting on Venna himself.

Venna begins as just another playful college girl.  But once Rusty Nail threatens them, she shows reserves of inner strength, keeping her head while the brothers flip out.  Whether it's using psychology to confuse the villain, or slamming a giant fender into his face to finish him off, Venna is one capable woman.

And considering we don't even see him till the Third Act, Rusty Nail makes a very striking bad guy.  And it's not simply because he's nasty enough to literally punch somebody's face off.  It's because he's three-dimensional.  Through the venom of his menacing manipulations, we see a man whose grotesque physical appearance and history of virulent child abuse have turned him into a monster.  His inability to communicate -- his inability to love -- has driven him mad with loneliness.  And after one rejection too many, the only way he knows how to communicate is through rage.  Character-wise, very well done.

TONE/SETTING:   Initially, JOY RIDE's tone is fairly confusing.  It wanders from touchy-feely teen romance to family psychodrama all in the First Act.  But once the brothers' practical joke backfires, the tone quickly settles into a groove of oppressive, almost unbearable terror.

When Venna comes in at the mid-point, the tone suddenly takes a lurch into romantic drama.  All thoughts of Rusty Nail disappear as these characters follow the dictates of their heart.  Only when Rusty returns does the tone shift back to the suffocating dread the script does so well.  But even then the story stumbles.  When Rusty Nail "dies," cloying romance comes to the fore as Lewis and Venna struggle with their love.  A guy could get whiplash following the tone in this script.

And that's a bad thing, since the audience gets very confused about how to react.  Luckily, fixing the structure will fix the tone.  If the story sticks to the Rusty Nail throughline, the tone will be consistently scary.

The settings are much more effective.  Whether it's a Stanford dorm room or a Nebraska truck stop, they're all written with a distinctive and flavorful touch.  Especially noteworthy is the Wyoming backcountry -- this forbidding wasteland becomes a character itself, almost going out of its way to hinder our heroes' escape.

COMMERCIAL APPEAL:   This script has plenty of commercial appeal, primarily due to its premise.  The "practical joke gone bad" meets SPEED concoction is extremely easy to pitch, making the script's chances of selling very likely.  Also helping is the idea's freshness.  With the exception of the thirty-year-old DUEL, we've never seen a psycho thriller on eighteen wheels before.  And that helps when you're trying to get a jaded public to toss their money down at the box office.

Another plus is JOY RIDE's genre, the thriller.  Unlike gung-ho war movies and cotton-candy romances, thrillers appeal to men and women alike.  They also have no age limit.  As long as your heart can take it, everyone loves to be scared (especially when your life isn't on the line).

Even better is the fact that it's a teen thriller.  With teenagers driving box office, especially repeat box office, the teen market is a very lucrative target.  And JOY RIDE, with its college-age protagonists getting in and out of scrapes, targets that market perfectly.

The only drawback is the strong violence.  If the film is Rated R, it will reduce the size of the audience considerably, for if there's one group of people who love seeing college-age kids, it's high-school-age kids.  So if the violence could be softened enough to garner a PG-13, the commercial appeal of this script would be greatly enhanced.

CONCLUSION:   If the meandering structure, and the resulting loss of narrative momentum, can be corrected, JOY RIDE will realize its full potential.

NOTE: For sample of (Standard) Coverage report, click here.

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