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Crocodeilos, The Old One

Logline: When his wife is killed by a hunter, our hero, a skillful crocodile, begins a search for the murderer to avenge her death.

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

Crocodeilos, The Old One is an epic ballad of a crocodile’s life: his love, his heartbreak, family, enemies and revenge.  Given that (a) the titular crocodile is not highly anthropomorphized, but rather portrayed as a fundamentally real, wild animal and (b) the story is a work of fiction, and not a quasi-documentary, we are impressed with the script’s ability to make us care about this creature’s journey.  However, long asides on various jungle creatures not related to the story, scant dialogue, lack of stage direction and a plot that doesn’t hold up to much scrutiny ultimately hold this script back.

What We Found Most Effective:

The script's unbridled celebration of nature, and unflinching embrace of all its beautiful, gnarly bits is absolutley infectious.  The script is a deep dive into the jungle and its audacious splendor.

What We Found Least Effective

The lyrical writing style, although inventive, and hands-off approach to stage direction, ultimately didn’t work for us.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

  • The writing style is often more poetry than prose.  Don’t get us wrong, we find it beautiful, but screenwriting is a technical and at times highly direct medium.  For example, on page 6 you write, “Our crocodile remains still, waiting, petrified.  Awakens of his apathy.”  It’s a beautiful passage, but what should the director film?  A sleeping crocodile that opens its eyes?  Would what ends up on screen be different if, instead, the entry were “The crocodile wake up”?  Where it helps to paint a full and complete picture for the director and cast, the poetic verse is appropriate, where it doesn’t, we don’t find it helpful.

 

  • We aren’t sticklers for the old writing adage of “show don’t tell” the way that some critics are, but we recognize its wisdom and only invoke it because the script too frequently relies on telling the audience how to feel.  For example, on page 33 the action entry is: “It's just an animal, some may say, but we like that little crocodile son. And want to protect him. For we get the impression that he's defenseless.”  This is an example of telling the audience what to feel, which has two shortcomings: 1) it doesn’t tell the director what to put on the screen and 2) we believe it is more effective to show the audience a vulnerable crocodile we identify with, than to tell the audience to identify with it.  Purely as an example, what if the little crocodile attempted to stalk a yellow jacket, only to screech and scurry away when the bee stood its ground and fought, causing the big father crocodile to roar in to the rescue, only to realize that it's just a bee and roll his eyes (or whatever the crocodile equivalent is) at the baby crocodile.  Now we’ve shown a humanizing side of the baby crocodile and established its defenselessness, and maybe even brought a grin to our audience’s lips in the offing.

 

  • This story is sprawling, covering decades, and at times we lost the thread of the plot.  As challenging as the subject matter is, you might consider removing one of the challenges by condensing the underlying plot down into a few days (or less).

 

Odds & Ends

  • Pg. 1-3.  Very different intro.  Lot’s of room for the director’s interpretation.  Our mood is certainly set, but does it work?  

  • Pg. 6. We enjoyed the description of the crocodile as a dragon sitting on bones and corpses rather than gold and diamonds.

  • GENERAL NOTE: The script uses highly specific descriptions of animals, their lengths and weights, colors and scientific names.  It's probably sufficient to say, for example, "the biggest crocodile in the jungle" rather than specifying exact measurements.

 

  • GENERAL NOTE: Stylistically, the script use phrases like, “We watch,” “we see,” “we follow,” etc.  The construct isn’t customary in screenplays (and we don’t think it adds anything).  For example, here is an excerpt from page 8:

 

“We watch our crocodile. As he lets himself drift. He isn’t struggling anymore.

 

We watch him between the dark and the light water.

 

As if he couldn’t do anything against the drifting. As if he’d be powerless. Or as if he’d actually enjoy it. Or as if he’d just be dreaming.

 

We go on watching him. As he drifts off.”

 

Here’s what we’d expect in standard script formatting:

 

“Crocodile drifts. He isn’t struggling anymore as he drifts between dark and light water.

He is powerless. Does he actually enjoy drifting, or is he dreaming?

 

Crocodile drifts off.”

 

  • Pg. 10-11.  8 out of the first 9 dialogue entries use exclamation points.

  • Pg. 12.  Typo.  “She does as she wouldn’t notice.”

  • Pg. 16. The death of the orangutan leader is very sad!

  • Pg. 20. The action entry states that the crocodile courtship takes quite a long time.  We suggest showing the actions, and not commenting on how long they take, as that is generally a choice that is in the director’s hands.

  • Pg. 30. The Crocodile’s mate get’s killed, which is the big event that sets the croc on his revenge journey.  This is the primary hook for the audience, it really isn’t until this moment that we want to know what happens to the Crocodile.  We suggest bringing this event forward in the script so that we buy into the Crocodile’s story sooner.

  • Pg. 34. Typo. “Just were the twigs are.”

  • Pg. 45-50. The scenes focusing on other jungle life, the cloud leopard, the python, the spider, the hornet, the porcupines, the water buffalo and bears, feel disconnected from the script, almost like filler material.  While it would be interesting to see these animals, consider whether these scenes are advancing the story.

  • Pg. 62. The action entry is, “Our crocodile thinks: Can something as strange as this really be happening? Isn’t this the strangest thing ever? Who is this guy? Maybe it’s a dream?”  It’s not clear to us what the director should show on the screen to demonstrate this.  If the director can’t show something, consider whether there is another way to communicate to the audience, i.e., some action or dialogue.

  • Pg. 64. Typo. “The song’s last guitar accord dies away.”

  • Pg. 68. There is a long action passage describing the flight of the tree snake in great detail.  Consider whether it adds to the script and the crocodile’s story to spend so much space describing the mechanics of the snake’s movement.

  • Pg. 73. Why do Hunter and Enemy Leader kill the One-Eyed Man?  We didn’t understand what their dispute was.

  • Pg. 76. We’re confused.  On page 73 you the action entry is, “The first to go down, with two bullets next to his heart, is the One-Eyed Man.”  We assumed he died, but now he is back in the action.  If he didn’t die on page 73, you may want to clarify what happened.

  • Pg. 78. Double negative.  “From where we are, we can’t see neither our crocodile’s bad eye, nor the One-Eyed Man’s…”

  • Pg. 80.  Wow, a crocodile tripping on drugs.  Crazy!

  • Pg. 103. Typo. “Spots Hunter in a distance.”

  • Pg. 106. Typo. “But it isn’t there no more.”

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