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The Door
The Door

Logline: A young boy with cancer must learn to cope with ridicule from his classmates, the death of his grandfather, the joy of a new friendship, and a mysterious door that forms on the wall of his room, becoming more distinct the sicker he becomes and only he can see. Is his grandfather waiting behind it or is it a manifestation of his illness?

Logline: A young boy with cancer must learn to cope with ridicule from his classmates, the death of his grandfather, the joy of a new friendship, and a mysterious door that forms on the wall of his room, becoming more distinct the sicker he becomes and only he can see. Is his grandfather waiting behind it or is it a manifestation of his illness?

Dark Matter Review

 

Overall Impression:

Tender and compassionate, The Door is a slow burn that ensconces its audience in the rigors of life as a young cancer patient.  The Door is laden with emotional heft: We care about Carl and Evan, and cried more than once over the second half of the script.  A few flaws hold this script back from reaching its full potential: pace (too slow), lack of tension/obstacles and an emotional through line that strikes only one note (albeit, that note is well struck and sounds clearly).

What We Found Most Effective:

 

The Door remains laser focused on its two principal characters (Carl and Evan), and three primary supporting characters (Opa, Sarah and Michael).  This focus allowed us to build deep connections with each character, and to truly care about their outcomes.

What We Found Least Effective

Character-centric as it is, the characters lack a certain roundness.  What distinguishes Carl from Evan?  While their circumstances are different in that one goes to school while the other does not, one’s father left while the other’s mom died, in many ways the characters strike us as carbon copies: They are each wholesome, kind and optimistic souls.

Similarly, Michael and Opa sound a very similar chord.  Michael is Prince Charming.  There is not a spot on him anywhere in the story.  Opa, while not a romantic role, is every bit the squeaky clean hero.

Sarah brought a bit more “mom-ittude,” but even she could have used some additional texture, a vice or a selfish motive – something to humanize her.

Suggestions For Improvement:

Big Picture Suggestions

 

  • The first appearance of the titular door is on page 48.  We are ambivalent on this placement.  On the one hand, (a) that is a darn long time for the audience to wait for a reveal promised in the title and (b) the ever-growing door adds tension for the audience, so the sooner the better.  On the other hand, introducing the door on page 1 risks putting the bunny in the hat too early - as soon as the door shows up, we know Carl's a goner.  But it isn’t as easy as just moving the intro of the door, since that is triggered by Opa’s death and has broader ramifications on the story.  We will circle back to this in bullet #4 below (after hitting on some related thoughts) and offer our suggestion.

  • Pages 1-50 establish: 1) intros to Carl and Evan, 2) that Carl and Evan each have cancer, 3) that kids/teachers are jerks to Carl, 4) Carl and Evan’s friendship, 5) that Carl and Evan’s mom and dad may be a romantic/emotional match, 5) that good men still exist (i.e., Opa).  Without minimizing the importance of these components, we think you could establish all of this in 10 pages or fewer. 

  • What is the “big event?” Meaning, the catalyst that drives Carl on his journey and starts Act II?  To us, it was Opa’s death, which occurs on pg 45 – too late.

  • The script is fantastic in its attention to character and emotional development, and the final 40 pages move along crisply, but the first half often left us feeling like nothing was happening.  We'd move Opa's death and the door's appearance up to about page 20.  In addition, we think the script would greatly benefit from a plot device to drive some complimentary, underlying tension and action.  It has to be authentic, of course, and work with your concept.  Try answering this question: What do Carl and Evan each need to accomplish before they die?  You devote a lot of time to answering this question on a philosophical level, but what about something tangible for the audience to sink its teeth into?  For example: Carl needs to experience his first kiss before he dies and/or clear the air with his dad.  Evan needs to meet the designer of his favorite video game.  Opa's death become an obstacle, for each of them, but particularly for Carl.  Then mount more obstacles in their path toward achieving the external goal, as many as you can think of.  Make that first kiss impossible, right up until Carl scores it.  As it is, we have a story driven purely by emotional need, without some tangible goal driving the action, and as a result we don't have nearly enough events/action propelling the story and holding the audience's attention.

  • We think you can squeeze more out of the Michael/Sarah subplot. Everything is in place for a nice meet cute on pg 32, but the meeting ends up not being all that cute, and the relationship ends up not developing as far as we thought it would.  What if there was some tension between the two?  E.g., What if Michael's video game company produces violent content and she is adamantly opposed to it?  What if he thinks Sarah is reckless and putting Carl unnecessarily at risk by sending him to school?  What if she really likes Michael but he is the forbidden fruit because Sarah doesn't want to have a relationship with someone other than Carl's dad prior to Carl's death?

Odds & Ends

 

  • Pg. 16. Typo – Dr. Parker dialogue “Alright, but I you have to promise…”

  • Pg. 33. Carl and Evan give up very quickly.  Most kids will whine and complain like crazy to continue hanging out longer.  Carl and Evan are often too nice, too perfect.  11 year olds can be tough!

  • Pg. 36. We enjoyed this tender moment between Carl and Opa.

  • Love the appearances of holidays in the script, and anything Halloween always pulls on our nostalgia for childhood.  We think Evan and Carl would coordinate on their costumes.  We loved that Evan went as a Dr., but wished Carl’s costume would have also been tied to his character.

 

  • Pg 46. Great drama here, but we’d like to see more of Carl’s reaction to Opa’s death.  You cut it off and we really never get to see Carl react. Does he scream and cry?  Is he so numb from his own health situation that he can’t react?  Does he run to Evan’s house?  Does he tell his mom he hates her?

  • Pg 48. We can’t see Carl giving a thumbs up at the funeral.

  • Pg 56. Typo in Michael’s dialogue. "...why don't the give the fleets..."

  • Pg 72. The audience gets robbed of the payoff between Michael and Mr. Hunt.  Effective in some ways, but we would have enjoyed watching Michael rip Mr. Hunt to shreds.

  • Pg 76. We don’t buy Carl's belief that the cards from his class are authentic.  Carl is smart, he'd guess they were put up to it.

  • Pg 77. This is the third time you use the device of a character overhearing news he wasn’t supposed to.  One use of this is probably the limit.

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