In Bloom by Austin Shinn: A Review by Austin Shinn

There are few moments that send a chill through a writer like the realization it’s time to read the first draft. It’s a terrifying ritual that forces us to accept our work isn’t done. The time spent on the 109 pages of script doesn’t matter anymore. It’s red pen time. After this draft it gets worse too. I’m only facing myself but next draft goes to others.

So in that light, a readthrough of the first draft is less a review and more of a damage assessment. What needs to go, what can be saved. Dishonest writers tell themselves almost everything. Honest ones say almost nothing. The first draft is where the spine is put in place. No more.

This is how I found myself, a month removed from the fire, sitting at my pc, reading my script. It was a cringe inducing hour. I refuse to share the draft but I did feel like I’d be open and lay bare my thoughts. This is my report.

In Bloom is the kind of script that writers today have no business writing. It’s low concept and unproduceable at a major studio. The romantic comedy has struggled in recent years, so seeing this relic of the She’s All That era feels odd. Yet, it does have the advantage of a low budget. Could be made as an indie. The only real effects are editing.

The script occupies in theory the romantic comedy genre but it’s not all that funny. It tells the story of Jack, a devout student, whose life is upended when his formerly nerdy best friend Felicity returns to town as an unexpected beauty. Jack struggles to fight his attraction but it refuses to die. Can he outrun it or is he destined to fall for his best friend?

This isn’t a new premise but it’s gestated for 15 years. Not unexpected in that light. The single biggest strength is the central premise and relationship. Jack and Felicity have a clear bond. There are some shadowy hints he might’ve saved her from a suicide attempt, but those are just shadowy. The script is at its strongest conveying the feelings Jack has for her. Without this working it’d belong in the trash.

The script also has a strong if poorly resolved plot about Jack’s absent mother. The idea of Jack outrunning her wild legacy is a worthwhile but underplayed one. A late revelation of a shared interest is an interesting one handled way too late. Better to have that established immediately. As for the actual resolution, dependent on severe contrivance, it’s best avoided in a future draft.

The problem is pretty much everything else. Jack is strongly etched but nobody else is. The running subplot of Jack’s rivalry with another student is awkward and only exists for an anticlimax. There are thematic ideas that don’t get explored enough, namely the characters facing an uncertain future post high school. Much of the second act is weak and padded. The dialogue is awful.

My final rating would be a 2/5 tops. The ideas and raw clay are there but it’s a muddled mess.

In that light, why continue if that’s my opinion of my own work? Shouldn’t I cut my losses and run on? I’m definitely not in love with it. I should try again and likely with something I can sell.

Except… Except for something important. There are about four scenes in the script I do love. They are the reason I sat down in the first place to do this piece. One at the beginning. One at the first act break. One at the midpoint. There’s about 5 amazing pages near the third act break, some of my best ever. There’s a potent page or two in the third act. My actual climax has some power.  All of these scenes need rewriting but they form an excellent structure to hang another draft on.

And so I’ll do it. I’m going to try again. I’ll see what I can do next. Maybe I find 40% of something I love in the next draft. Maybe 60% next. I’ll never get to 100, never had a chance. But I believe in those 15-20 pages. I believe in my imagery. I spent 15 years fighting to here. I’ll see what comes next.

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