One Hour Development (2001), by Greg Dawless, won one of the five Nicholl Fellowships in screenwriting in 2001. As far as I can tell, the script remains unproduced. Let’s analyze it.
*I didn’t finish my analysis here, and seeing as it’s been some time since I read the screenplay I’ll leave the parts I didn’t fill in blank.
- Draft Read: Undated
- Type: Spec
- Page Count: 117
- Reading Speed: Medium
- Setting(s): Anytown, USA
- Plot Structure: Linear, Spanning one day
- Genre(s): Comedy
- Theme(s): Love, Self-confidence, Blue comedy
- Protagonist Change: Significant
This script takes the reader for a wild ride. At first, it reads just like Chinatown (1973), a man throwing compromising photos on a desk and another man in shambles. But the story takes a turn and becomes one filled with blue comedy, satire and farce.
The script uses freeze-frames to share each character’s inner monologue. The early V.O.s are relatively bland (Page 21):
FREEZE FRAME on Jim’s bank look, water frozen in air.
Motion. He lowers the hose.
Here’ s a later one (Page 96):
GOOD SAMARITAN (V.O.)
I was a boy scout, an all American pitcher, prom king, voted most popular three years in a row, community leader, fraternity president, glee club, captain of my office softball team, chairman of the board of trustees, husband of the year, and now I’m a hero.
MOTION again as Larry splatters another car, its wheel falls off, rolls through the parking lot, and CRASHES into the good samaritan. He screams out in agony…
Dumb, stupid… yet funny. And yes, while this type of comedy isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (myself included), it’s clear through this unique technique that Dawless has mastered screenwriting. He’s even able to make fun of the process in his action lines (similar to Chayefsky in Network (1976)) (Page 90):
I am Captain Inspectorrrr. Protector of justice and liberty! You may call me Inspectorrr!
MOTION. I don’t know either. I’ve lost my mind.
The characters are all well thought out. More on that later.
While many of the jokes are one-liners and have simple setups and payoffs, some stretch for most of the screenplay. For example, Larry’s excessive sweating (a unique character trait) causes the peoples’ hands he shakes to be repulsed, among other problems. Here’s a short action line from Page 61 that takes this joke further:
EXT. GAS STATION – CONTINUOUS
Larry runs up to the GAS STATION ATTENDANT who sits on a bench tinkering with a greasy auto part. Larry offers his hand, they shake, and both men wipe their palms.
Stupid, but funny.
The story is told through a story. Wait… What? Let’s be more specific: The story of Larry going bananas is essentially a substory. We start in the private investigator’s office and he introduces the story in which we jump into. That still doesn’t read well, but like Dawless on page 90 I’m feeling a bit too lazy to fix it.
Okay, my point is this: The private investigator angle doesn’t really work all that well. It’s not funny, interesting and runs contrary to the story’s fast-paced rhythm. The entire story could have been introduced with half a page of narration. That’s not to say the current version doesn’t work, but it doesn’t stand out like the rest of the screenplay.
Some of the supporting characters reappear throughout the screenplay while others simply make brief appearances usually to help out with a joke. There was probably an opportunity for some of the supporting cast, such as Larry’s neighbor, to reappear closer to the climax to make it more intense.
None to note.
The plot involves Larry, a weakling, trying to prevent his wife from developing a compromising photo of himself. What it’s really about is Larry gaining the confidence he’s never had.
The plot’s dumb. Like really dumb. It’s also farcical. It makes fun of everybody and everything. It’s a critique of society. But it actually has some strong messages in regard to love and living life to the fullest.
Larry, the mumbling, bumbling schmuck. Shelly, the fourteen-year-old, fotohut kiosk employee who goes to great lengths to avoid giving Larry his photo (the breakout character… by far). Larry’s wife, who doesn’t respect him. Mary Beth, the woman Larry ends up with.
There’s a bunch of supporting characters who are essentially caricatures, some of whom are quite comical and others who miss the mark a bit.
Dialogue & Pacing
Best Part of The Script