During WW2, in occupied France, a former underdog cyclist working for the Resistance must compete in a national race organized by the Nazis to secretly carry out a vital microfilm to the Allied Forces at the Spanish border.

Francis_Bibeau Penpusher Asked on August 9, 2017 in Thriller.
Add Comment
8 Review(s)

Francis_Bibeau:

Congratulations. Your premise has succeeded in taking root in my mind.   Which is not easy to do as the terrain of my mind is  mostly inhospitable hard pan. (What, you noticed?)

So here’s a suggested rough 1st draft:

In 1942, a cowardly alcoholic is drafted by the French Resistance to enter a bicycle race in order to deliver a vital microfilm to an Allied contact on the Spanish border.
(31 words)

Notes:

“1942”:  the logline reader should quickly realize the story is set during World War II so this compresses the time frame to 1 word instead of 3.

“Cowardly”:  This sets up a stronger implied character arc than is he’s “reluctant”.  Why?  Well, think about it: as soon as he agrees and enters the race, he’s overcome his reluctance, right? Hence, his  character arc is completed by the end of the 1st Act.

But a character arc shouldn’t be resolved until the 3rd Act.

So if he’s fainthearted, averse to taking risks no matter how noble the cause. then he’s afflicted with a flaw that can persist and plague him for  the duration of the contest.

Ditto, obviously, with  his being an alcoholic.  It also suggests a stronger subjective story line than his being an “under dog”.  Because the bicycle race becomes a salvage operation, a journey of personal redemption.  Which is the most emotionally potent of all subjective story lines.

“An Allied contact”:  It’s destined to reach the Allies in general but 1st it has to be delivered to a specific contact, right?  Whenever possible, a logline (and script) should focus on specific individuals of a group, not just the group in general.  And surely he will be given a specific name and verification information, a specific drop off point.

“Vital microfilm”:  the logline need not specify the magnitude of the stakes, how vital the information on the microfilm is.  For the purpose of a logline, I think it is sufficient for us to surmise.  But in the script proper, I assume you’ve cooked up a good story about just how vital it is.

One other thought:   Add a  ticking clock.  IOW: if he must reach the Spanish border in “X” days — or else it’ll be too late.  And some disastrous consequence will befall the Allied cause.  So he needs to maintain a fast pace, stay at or near the front of the pack.

This is where “under dog” might come into play but I prefer “out of shape” because of his alcoholism  — to be developed in the script proper.  You can’t cram it all into a logline.   Being an alcoholic suggests a lot of physical and personal problems, more than enough to escalate the jeopardy of his mission, raise the odds that he will fail.

Best wishes for your script.

fwiw

dpg Singularity Reviewed on August 9, 2017.

P.S.  You might also want to layer the personal redemption story line with a related back story of his father’s service and suffering in the Great War. So many possibilities to choose from.  Take your pick.

on August 9, 2017.

Hey, thank you for the great feedback, I really appreciate it.

My only (small) concern is making the main character an alcoholic. I think it has been done a good number of times before. I do agree, he has to be flawed. And he probably drinks, yes, a bit more than he should. But not so much as to be considered an alcoholic. It has to be something else. Maybe he should be someone who abandons quickly. Not necesarily a coward (although maybe a little). But just a guy who never really finishes what he starts, someone who balks at the first sign of an obstacle. Maybe he has (or had?) a chance to be a great cyclist but never fully exploited his talent. So he is regarded by others as somewhat of a “choker”. I don’t know yet.

What I had in mind, and you actually put your finger right on it, is that the hero has only one passion in life: cycling. He doesn’t like the Nazis, of course, but he doesn’t believe in the Resistance either. To him, war is a nuisance, something that interrupted his passion. He still isn’t yet quite conscious of the atrocities of war and what it means for the rest of the world. To him, it’s all politics and rubbish. So when they first approach him for this special mission, of course, he refuses. Not interested.

But then something happens: he witnesses the Nazis kill someone close to him, or maybe his brother was in the Resistance and got killed. It just suddenly hits him: we’re at war! And now he has a chance to make a difference doing what he likes most: cycling. Only now, he will have to give everything he has to succeed.

I do agree with the ticking clock, and I had it in mind too. Of course, this race is a one shot deal. He has to be at the Spanish border at a very specific time to deliver the microfilm or else, everything falls apart.

I really like what you did with the logline. But at this point, since I’m not sure about the alcoholic thing, I would put it like this:

In 1942, a (add a flaw here) former cyclist is drafted by the French Resistance to enter a bicycle race in order to deliver a vital microfilm to an Allied contact on the Spanish border. (32 words)

I’ll sleep on it! 

Thanks again! 

on August 9, 2017.
Add Comment

Will the story be about the cyclist riding through the countryside? Or will it be about his preparations leading up to the race? Or will it be after the race, him trying to hand over the film? Or all the above?

I ask as his action of cycling in the race isn’t going to make for good cinema. Think about it, he cycles, then he cycles some more , etc… Unless there is a conspiracy to take him out during the race, in which case, he’ll be dodging assassination attempts alone on the road – this would make for an interesting action full sequence.

Personally, I find the lead up to the race interesting – Will the Nazis catch him obtaining the microfilm? Will he get under way carrying his precious cargo? The stakes are high and the danger is clear. However, that would only be act 1, therefore I think it would be best to introduce a Nazi spy competing against him in the race and trying to kill him – this will give you an act 2. Act 3 can be him struggling/fighting to deliver the microfilm.

However, I still believe that the story needs a powerfully motivating inciting incident. Perhaps the Nazi’s could kill his brother, and former cycling champion, after declaring they will hold the race?

Nir Shelter Singularity Reviewed 6 days ago.

You just read my mind!

Before the race starts, the Nazis learn there is a member of the Resistance carrying a microfilm amongst the riders. So our hero knows they are closing in on him and he must stay alert during the race and, yes, eventually dodge assassination attemps.

I was thinking there could be more attemps at the hotel, between the stages. But maybe a 3-4 stage race is too long for a 2-hour movie and I should just focus on a one-day race.

My idea for Act-III was as follow: for some reason, the delivery cannot be made at the rendezvous point. So our cyclist has to go off-road while being chased by Nazi riders. At this point, it really is a race of life and death.

I also had an idea. Before the war, the cyclist never won a race. He is seen as the guy who always finishes second or blows his chances of winning. At some point during the race, he could actually have a real chance of winning. But he can’t because he must deliver the microfilm. So he has this dilemma where he has to decide weither he should finally win a race or sacrifice the victory for his country.

And yes, the inciting incident will be something similar to what you described. Remember, at the beginning, the hero is not interested in the Resistance and doesn’t really care about the war. His only concern is cycling. So when they kill his brother or his best friend/rival, that is when he feels he must get involved and take revenge in some way.

Finally, I have a dilemma myself. I don’t know if I should write it in English or in French. French is my mother tongue and since the movie takes place in France, it would be more natural for me and storywise to write it in French. On the other hand, I feel I would have a better chance to interest an agent/producer/studio in the US since it is a bigger market. There are also a lot more screenplay contests. And since I’m a beginner and I don’t have any contacts, it could be the best way for me to get noticed.

What should I do?

Thank you!

5 days ago.

Unfortunately, the credibility of the premise will be a problem if he is chased by a killer throughout all stages. If the killer is hot on his heels, he would need to successfully dodge the killers during the breaks between stages as well as the race itself and that is simply something I find hard to believe.

Perhaps it would be better to have an all out obvious killer threatening him only in act three during the last stage of the race – it will give you that high octane climactic sequence to end on.

As for language, I suggest writing it in English. To facilitate this I recommend you have an English or American character in the story to justify why other characters need to speak in English with this character. In doing this, you have a portion of the characters talking in English and others in German and French which is something you can indicate in parentheses.

Interesting that you should raise the question about script languages. I am literally writing this comment in HK airport on the way to Seoul to meet with producers about an Australian and South Korean co-production. I have an American character in the story but except that one character, the rest are Korean and I’ll be writing the script in English.

4 days ago.
Add Comment

The wording is awkward.  It reads as if the Nazis were conducting the race for the purpose of enabling the cyclist to carry out the microfilm to the Allies which is surely not the intent.

Also “underdog” seems irrelevant to the plot. Why does it whether he is a top dog or underdog matter when the primary goal is to deliver the film, not win the race.

And why would the Nazi’s organize such a race when their primary mission was to subjugate and exploit the French?  When civilian activities in Vichy France were nominally managed by the French themselves?  When the Nazi’s had more important things to do than to micromanage French recreational activities in Vichy France?

dpg Singularity Reviewed on August 9, 2017.

The Nazis did try to recreate the Tour de France in 1942 to reassure the population and also as a kind of propaganda. They did not have the rights and called it Circuit de France.

The cyclist is an underdog because he never won a race and now, he will by cycling to save other people’s lives (the microfilm holding vital information about an imminent attack). So he will have to win his own race which is the mission for the Resistance.

on August 9, 2017.
Add Comment

How about:

In occupied France, as the Nazis decide to revive the Tour de France as a propaganda tool, a former cyclist working for the Resistance uses the event to secretly carry out a vital microfilm across the country to the Allies.

Francis_Bibeau Penpusher Reviewed on August 9, 2017.
Add Comment

Thanks for the clarification.

But according to Wikipedia (which may or not be a dubious reference),  the Nazi’s proposed but the French refused to run any national race  in 1941  However, a Frenchman did organize a 1942 race — with Nazi consent, of course.  He was a Nazi sympathizer, but the point is, the Nazi’s didn’t organize the Circuit de France.  A French sympathizer did.

Well, you can take a little creative fudging with historical fact there.

However, on narrower technical issues, it still seems to me that “underdog” is  rather incongruous to the particular plot.  What is the particular plot?  That under the guise of racing, he must deliver the microfilm.

The purpose of a character flaw is to present a subjective issue that puts in serious jeopardy the protagonist achieving his objective goal.  To make the audience worry that he will fail because of some “Achilles Heel” that  the antagonist or circumstances will eventually expose and attack.

In this case, how  does an “underdog” directly threaten that objective goal?  As long as he can pedal the route to the border, what does it matter how  good or bad his time is?  What does it matter if he comes in first or last ?  Isn’t all that matter is that he bicycle the route?

If his objective goal were to win the race, then yes, being an underdog would put that goal in jeopardy.

But that’s not his objective goal.  His objective goal is deliver the message.  And again, I don’t see how being an “underdog” jeopardizes that goal.  How would it make the audience worry about his ability to deliver the message?  What “Achilles Heel” does it constitute that threatens to cripple, perchance, kill the cyclist?

Now, if he were cowardly — well that would present a subjective problem for the audience to worry about.

Finally, I think it would make it more dramatically interesting if at the start of the story, he’s more like Rick in “Casablanca”.  He doesn’t “stick his neck out for nobody”;  he just wants to mind his own business, stay out of trouble, and survive. Like Rick, he’s  not a Nazi collaborator but neither does he want to fight for the Resistance.  (Rick’s dramatic flaw is not that he’s underdog or cowardly.  His flaw is that he is cynical, bitterly disillusioned.)

And then comes the “Call” from the Resistance.

fwiw

dpg Singularity Reviewed on August 9, 2017.

OK, instead of underdog, would the term “reluctant” be more appropriate?

on August 9, 2017.
Add Comment

Your Review

By posting your review, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.