NOTE: A few words, first, about the idea of reviewing unproduced screenplays. This topic has been debated beyond sense and I will only address the topic this one time. After that I will read and review whatever I want because one side is clearly wrong and motivated by an illogic inspired by greed.
There is NO HARM that accrues to writers from having their unproduced screenplays reviewed. The exceptions listed in defense of this are silly. Those scripts supposedly harmed by reviews WOULD HAVE been made into movies if they had been good enough to be made into movies in the form they were reviewed. They weren’t. The writers of those scripts should have done a better job on the draft that circulated to ensure that it was a GOOD script before they let it be circulated.
In other words, make sure your circulation draft is an excellent example of the craft and you will avoid the “harm” of a bad review.
Summed: Write a finished script with great characters and a great story and you won’t get a bad review. On the other hand, if you do IN FACT write a finished script with great characters and a great story and some blogger says it’s not, that blogger will have zero influence in any circle that might cause negativity to surround your script. The blogger will not have an audience BECAUSE they are incompetent at reviewing screenplays.
The thing that impressed me most about Shadow 19 is its title. What a brilliant device for creating mystery. The author holds his biggest secret—what the title refers to—up his sleeve until forty pages in to his story. Then he reveals the meaning by telling us about Shadow 1. The script is 127 pages long, and now I know that I’m going to go through 18 iterations of the story before I get the big reveal. Genius. This is a technique which exists outside the normal story architecture and, if you can pull it off, you will be guaranteed to get someone to finish your script. Most people give their script titles which are purely descriptive. Think of a title which puts a question in your reader’s mind, and you will have gotten half way to a consider. Excellent work by Mr. Spaihts.
The thing that impressed me least about this script is its length. There is no need for this story to be 127 pages long. The battle on Dione is mundane. Yeah, yeah, yeah, Vance is a great soldier and single-handedly wins the battle. So what. I’ve seen all this a hundred times before and nothing new was added. It was as though Mr. Spaihts was checking off a box on “a how to get your screenplay sold” list—open with a violent battle to get the reader’s attention—check.
Additionally, there is a long wind-up to what Director Marbeck wants with Vance and all of it could be condensed. There is no need to be on page 40 before we learn what the shadow in our title refers too.
Also in the “needs work” category is the relationship which develops between Ada and Vance. It comes from outside their characters. When I say that, what I mean is that it feels like another box being checked off in a how to get a screenplay read checklist. This one’s called—”make sure your action lead had an attractive female to hook up with by fade out”. This romance is paint by numbers, at best.
The plot points worked for me. I liked the progression through Vance’s shadows on Planet Erix. This is a sci-fi adaptation of the Groundhog Day principle in storytelling but, as is almost always the case, the trope works. If you have a character repeat something until he learns the secrets that complete the maze you’ve put her/him in, the audience will follow. We just have to solve the maze. There is nothing new in this iteration of the [Live, Die, Repeat] scenario, but competent writers can always pull it off.
The characters were underdeveloped. That’s all I can say about them. This is a script which was written to serve its plot points. The characters do what their story needs them to do. In terms of trying to get a sale, or a job writing other people’s scripts [Prometheus], there is nothing wrong with this strategy. If you are trying to write something that gets you a sale, industry work, and resonance, you should spend more time on your characters.
Whenever a script is low on resonance, it inevitably struggles with its theme. Shadow 19 is no different. I don’t know what Mr. Spaihts intended in this department, but his finished product does not contain a single idea which everything else supports. I suppose there is something that could be made from the treatment of the alien intelligence found on planet Erix—an
Intelligence is sacred in whatever form it takes
kind of thing, but you’d really have to reach to say this theme occurs anywhere in the script before page 80. To be truly resonant, Vance should have been forced to deal with this issue throughout. He should have been making choices which run counter to this theme in his duties as a Marine. In other words, Vance needed to be uniform in his commitment to serving his duty as a soldier, and then come to the realization that this duty is owed less allegiance than his duty to respecting the sanctity of intelligent life.
The theme of Shadow 19 is respectable, and worth encapsulating in a story, it’s just poorly executed. (1)
Overall Rating: Worth Reading But Needs Revision
1 I will leave aside the corollary theme which gets no treatment in the script at all. LIFE is sacred in whatever form it takes. Vance is a killing machine. He has no problem with his job until it asks him to kill creatures he recognizes as equals. Vance, for all his ending heroism, is still a juvenile moralist.