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Title: MINORITY REPORT

Author: Scott Frank

Consultant: Angela Falkowska


LOGLINE:

When a Precrime cop is accused of a future murder he has no intention of committing, he must prove the infallible crime prediction system has a fatal flaw or carry out the crime.


MINORITY REPORT SYNOPSIS

In a not-too-distant future, murder is predicted and prevented by precops, like Chief JOHN ANDERTON. He and his Precrime cops go after a man who is about to murder his cheating wife. Though the crime never reaches completion, the man is arrested and put in jail. It’s a black and white system: there’s no leniency or justification available, just punishment.

Prediction of these crimes is done by three precogs, virtual slaves, who are kept in a semi-conscious state so their visions can be recorded. In the six years Washington, D.C. has been the testing ground for the project no murder has been committed there. It’s time to have a national vote to make Precrime a nation-wide system. The Justice Dept. sends DANNY WITWER to investigate Precrime and scrutinize all its employees prior to nationalization.

Anderton’s life is a mess. He’s still grieving the loss of his son after six years and the marriage that fell apart because of it. Moreover, he’s taking drugs to ease his pain.

When Anderton approaches one of the precogs, AGATHA, she desperately grabs his arm and shows him a vision of the drowning of ANNE LIVELY. Anderton tries to get more information but hits a dead end. Data is missing.

Anderton’s next assigned case is to prevent himself(!) from murdering a man named CROW. He’s being framed and the victim is unknown to him. Anderton flees. With the precops after him, Anderton finally gets away. Only IRIS HINEMAN, one of the founders of Precrime may be able help. Anderton seeks her out. She tells Anderton that the precogs are not infallible and don’t always agree. Those reports are filed away in the precogs mind as minority reports. In order to access the precogs Anderton must get back into his lab. The only way to do that is to get new eyes, a new identity.

Anderton finds a sleazy surgeon to do the job. To make matters worse, the doctor was once arrested by Anderton and served time. Anderton gets his new eyes and is instructed to leave the bandages on for 12 hours or risk blindness. Halfway through, the police, making a door to door search, nearly discover him. Tiny mechanical spyders that make EYEdentifications shine their probes in one of his new eyes, thereby half-blinding him.

Anderton manages to sneak back into his lab and snatch Agatha, but the cops are alerted and after them both. Anderton takes Agatha to a cyberparlour so a friend can help him read her memory. Before he can make a copy of that disc, the cops catch up to them. Agatha assists in the escape as she predicts various dangers along the way.

They wind up near the hotel where Anderton is to murder Crow. He recognizes things from Agatha’s previsions. They find the scene of the crime-to-be, but Crow’s not there. It appears as if Crow was responsible for the murder and disappearance of Anderton’s son six years earlier. By the time Crow arrives, Anderton is primed to kill him. Agatha tells Anderton he has the right to choose his destiny. Anderton listens and starts to arrest Crow instead of killing him. Crow blurts out that Anderton must kill him because that’s what Crow was hired for. Before Anderton can force the name of the mastermind from Crow, Crow shoots himself, thus fulfilling Agatha’s vision.

Meanwhile, Witwer finds the disc from the cyberparlour and figures out that there were two separate drownings of Anne Lively taking place. He shows the disc to LAMAR BURGESS, Anderton’s boss and mentor and Lamar shoots him with Anderton’s gun.

Anderton takes Agatha to his ex-wife Lara’s home. But Lara, believing Anderton to be guilty, calls Burgess. Agatha reveals that Anne Lively was her mother as the cops approach. Anderton is arrested and put away.

Lara goes to Burgess to give him some of Anderton’s belongings. Burgess trips himself up and alerts Lara to the truth. Lara goes to the jail to get Anderton out.

Burgess is honored at a Precrime banquet. Anderton confronts Burgess. He turns the speaker system on so that all the guests can hear Burgess admit his guilt. At first Burgess tries to shoot Anderton, but in the end he takes his own life.

Anderton and his wife are reunited and have another baby. Agatha and the other precogs live out their lives far from civilization.


OVERVIEW:

MINORITY REPORT is an excellent read. It has great style and flow. As an action genre script, it has plenty of action and intriguing futuristic scenarios to first pique the interest, then sustain it until the end. The central mystery of who framed the protagonist and whether he will fulfill his predetermined fate moves the action along, although there are some logic problems that need to be addressed.

Your greatest problem is that there is very little emotional engagement. There are some suspenseful action scenes but the resolution leaves this reader, and I suspect your greater audience, cold. There can be many explanations as to why this happens, but one major underpinning reason is that your protagonist, Anderton, is mostly not proactive. By this I mean he responds to the things that happen to him, instead of causing them. I will discuss this at length.

This is an overlong script and could benefit from some tightening. Two or three pages of the extraneous length could be eliminated simply by removing the camera directions, cut to:s and shortening the description.

You’ve made ample and excellent use of symbols in this story. The recurring presence of water (representing the two sides of life and precrime, good and evil omnipresent): in the adultery scene, Anderton’s son at the pool, Anderton hiding in the bathtub, the drowning of Anne Lively and the precogs floating in the milky pool, shows its dichotomous life-giving and life-taking aspects. The other recurring, interconnected symbols are eyes and seeing: Marks returning for his glasses, blind Lycos, Anderton switching his eyes--to hide his identity--which ultimately allows him to see the truth more clearly. These are well done.

You have mastered the art of story-telling and screenwriting format.


IN-DEPTH ANALYSIS:

John Anderton is very good at his job, hunting down criminals, but the very structure of Precrime requires him to wait (passively) for a future crime to be identified so he can (reactively) spring into pursuit of the perpetrator. He is totally absorbed in his work, and he has no real life outside the job.

We find out that he lost his son, which goes a long way to explaining why he’s shut down. He’s still suffering and it’s this pain that should make him more human and allow us to identify with him. Instead, his grief is shown to be pathetically reactive and he loses our respect. He does nothing to help himself--except take drugs, which is counter-productive. He wallows in the scenes of his past, reliving them night after night. Unable to move on, he is truly stuck in his downward spiral. Like the precogs, slaves of Precrime, he’s drifting. Also like the precogs, he exists in a world of images: the past at home and the future at work. He has no meaningful present.

At the Inciting Incident, when Agatha grabs his arm and asks if he can “see”, he looks (passively), but cannot “see”(actively). He pursues it a little, but gets nowhere. It’s not until he himself is pre-accused of murder that he takes action, but still it is a reaction.

He runs. Why? Here is where the logic of the cause and effect falls apart. If his life is the pits, has no meaning, then why does he even care about his future except as a knee-jerk reaction? He’s simply in survival-mode. For the audience, we are in effect watching a man whose life is meaningless, pursue a future that may be ruined. Of course, once he becomes a fugitive we can have an interesting futuristic car chase with captivating visuals to distract us. It’s a smoke and mirrors opportunity for the magic of special FX to gloss over. You’ll need lots of that for the major problems to be concealed.

Throughout the rest of the story, Anderton’s only proactive move is to steal Agatha from the tank.

Even at the climax when he is about to shoot Crow and doesn’t, the action is taken out of his hands as Crow shoots himself. True, Anderton decides to choose not to kill Crow, but that’s an internal change and film is an external medium. Later, Burgess decides not to kill Anderton--which is pretty much an echo of the Crow shooting. The two situations are too similar. It’s repetitive. The second shooting carries even less emotional impact: Burgess is corrupt, he shoots himself, Precrime is defunct. Who really cares? The most burning question that arises is whether Lara will go to prison for helping Anderton to escape--but that’s a question no one is even asking.

As an audience we haven’t been allowed to invest our hopes and fears in Anderton, because he hasn’t acted proactively, he hasn’t made us care. We should be quivering at the edge of our seats at the impending discovery that Anderton has escaped. Burgess should be turning the tables on Anderton as Anderton tries to expose the truth.

The mystery or conspiracy of who framed Anderton and whether he will meet that destiny drives the plot. It’s the central point around which the action spins. Normally, it’s the protagonist who actively solves this mystery. Does Anderton discover the truth? No. His wife Lara figures it out and goes about freeing Anderton so Anderton can confront Burgess. Burgess kills himself, thereby ending all Anderton’s problems. It’s unsatisfying for the audience. The protagonist, should have been the driver of the action.

How can you make the protagonist more active? It’s a dilemma in this instance since the story is an adaptation and one must be careful about changing the entire thrust of the novel. I would suggest either going back to the source material for an answer, or risking the annoyance of fans of the novel by changing the story to make Anderton proactive and therefore allowing the audience to identify with him, feel for him, share his dilemma--participate in the story.

The following are just some suggestions for improving the above problem. They may not be the best, but should help you to brainstorm some real solutions.

You need to raise the stakes for the audience to care about Anderton’s plight.

Anderton could be in danger of losing his job if his drug use becomes known. What if the process of taking Precrime national requires blood tests of all employees? Anderton has been trying to solve his son’s disappearance (maybe his drug use started out as a cover to get information from the drug syndicate) and he is just at the brink of discovering the truth. He can’t afford to be fired! He needs time, so he concocts a scheme that will postpone the nationalization. One possibility would be for him to frame Witwer for a precrime, but when his plan goes awry, Anderton finds himself on the run.

Another approach could be to change the origins of the precogs. Give them a prior life that was stolen from them and have Anderton find a way to set them free. As they are now, the precogs are barely human. They need to become more than just pathetic waifs to make us care deeply about their fate. In fact, as Anderton helps Agatha, he would be reestablishing our respect for him. As he works to restore her life, he could be finding the meaning of his own.

Just as an aside, I really like the similarity between Anne Lively and Anderton. Both lose their children and want them back. Changing the precogs into real human beings who’ve had their lives stolen from them would carry a far more powerful punch. It would also allow for a different relationship between Anderton and Agatha, more father-daughter.

The other major problem is the lack of a concrete antagonist. Is it Witwer, Burgess or Precrime itself?

For the first part of the story, we think Witwer is the bad guy. But he’s not really “bad” enough. He’s just a cop doing his duty, neither better nor worse than Anderton. The most hateful thing about him seems to be his gum chewing. You should work at making him more real and less of a two-dimensional character. What if he’s there under duress, and feels that this job is beneath him? His attitude of superiority would make him less vulnerable and more easily despicable. What if his opinion of Precrime was that it was a load of bull and a waste of taxpayers’ money? If he further believed that anyone who worked for precrime was stupid for thinking it could work, he’d be at odds with Anderton who lives and breathes only Precrime.

Burgess plays the role of mentor turned antagonist. Too predictable. We’ve seen this kind of character in too many films, like LA Confidential, and Star Wars Episode 3, for example. Unfortunately today’s sophisticated audience can see it coming.

In this story, Precrime itself is the antagonist. First it spawns Witwer as Anderton’s adversary, then Burgess in the climactic scenes. Shifting the focus so that Precrime is the obvious antagonist would necessitate a confrontation with Precrime itself at the climax. Burgess is only the representative of the beast. How could Anderton destroy the beast? As events stand, Burgess destroys Precrime by choosing to kill himself rather than Anderton. Anderton tells him he can make that choice. It’s a weak action, resulting in a weak ending.

A far better ending would have Anderton doing the destruction, perhaps killing the precogs to prevent them from ever being used again. If you set that up correctly and had the precogs predetermine their own deaths, Anderton could pull the plug on them and be charged with mercy killing and maybe acquitted. At the very least it would make Anderton proactive. At the best, it would strengthen the ending and give Anderton a true dilemma that we can suffer through with him and perhaps learn to respect him for.

Just as an aside, the problem with replacing the precogs needs to be addressed. Some kind of plan should be in place in case of illness or death. Other precogs should be “in training” for any eventuality.

A basic logic problem exists around the framing of Anderton for a precrime.

First, supposing that Burgess set up the Crow murder, how and when did he do that? In the case of Anne’s murder, there was a previous crime and someone was arrested. How is that possible here? Anderton had no knowledge of Crow’s supposed involvement in his son’s disappearance until he entered the hotel room.

Secondly, since there was no premeditation, this would be considered a crime of passion, and therefore as previously stated, would appear late, giving the precops little time to track down the murderer before he commits the crime. In Anderton’s case, there’s 36 hours lead time. How? Why?

Thirdly, if this is a situation like the Anne Lively murder, where’s the fake perpetrator? He’d almost have to be in the room in order for all the details to be the same.

These are questions that may be missed by the audience as they’re watching, because by this point their willing suspension of disbelief will make them accept small niggling doubts. Nevertheless, the doubts and questions remain, contributing to an unsatisfactory ending.


Page-By-Page Notes:

You should eliminate camera directions, which are only necessary in a shooting version of the script. In this early draft they should be more subtle. You can imply where the camera is to focus simply by starting a new action paragraph that describes the thing you want to be seen on screen. Examples will be shown in the page notes below.

Too much description—it slows down the read.

Use more active verbs, such as “nestles” instead of “is nestled”, which is passive. Eliminate “there” as in “he stands there”.


Page 1-- Instead of : We hear a woman WHISPER

SAY: “A woman’s voice WHISPERS.”

NOTE: Use active verbs.

Page 2-- the confusing images are a good hook.

Nice tie-in with the scissors later.

NOTE: The man can’t see without his glasses. Great intro and use of the theme of SEEING.

Page 3-- Instead of :WE SEE THE WOMAN IN THE BEDROOM

As she SCREAMS and the man stabs her in the throat…

SAY: “The woman in the bedroom screams as the man stabs her in the throat…”

NOTE: It saves two lines and that all adds up.

NOTE: You can indicate some transitions (as in sound to sound or image to image, but remove DISSOLVE TO:, CUT TO:, let the director decide how he will handle transitions.

Instead of :As their faces disappear into the milky void, we HEAR A SIREN ALARM and now see...

 

A RED BALL - ANALYTICAL ROOM

 

Rolling fast down a chute…

SAY: “As the faces submerge, a SIREN goes off,

A RED BALL zips down a chute, followed in quick

succession by another RED BALL…”

NOTE: Reveal the balls just like the rest of the images prior to them and then put in the slugline:

INT. ANALYTICAL ROOM—PRECRIME HEADQUARTERS--DAY

NOTE: Give some description of Anderton, not just physical but an indication of who he is. For example: “Anderton lives and breathes his job at Precrime. As he works in unison with the machine we get the feeling that he’s more comfortable with it than with people. His lack of feeling covers deep wounds.”

Page 4 -- So many characters have been introduced without differentiation. Each character should have some outstanding feature to help keep them straight. Are they all necessary or could some be combined? Remember that in a screenplay every second is valuable. Think of each speaking character as an additional $100,000 in the budget.

Page 5--watch the extraneous description.

Instead of :SARAH, the woman we just saw murdered, cooks breakfast, bathed in a halo of bright sunshine that streams in from a window. She looks up, smiles. A beautiful day outside.

Say: “SARAH, the woman we just saw murdered, cooks breakfast. As she looks up, smiles, a ray of sunshine bathes her in a halo.”

Note: Where else would sunshine originate in a kitchen than from a window?

Instead of :Everybody in the room working on the vision.

Say: “Everybody in the room works on the vision.”

Note: Use the present tense. Avoid words ending in ‘–ing’.

Nice foreshadowing and use of symbol with the child stabbing through Lincoln’s eyes and the halo around the woman’s head.

Page 6--you’ve established that Anderton is very good at his job, smart, creative, inventive, detail-oriented. Use those qualities later in the script! Anderton should be the one who notices that the ripples go in different directions in the Anne Lively tapes--not Witwer.

Page 7--the repetition of being blind without his glasses is wasted unless it’s used to some effect later. While it’s true that Marks comes back for his glasses, thus allowing him to find his wife and her lover, it could also be used later in a different way to bring cohesion to the script. For example: Agatha may be very sensitive to the light and require sunglasses. Or Anderton might need glasses if his new eyes aren’t 20-20. It would make sense if the eyes he gets were inferior in some way.

Page 8--“risotto” is spelled with 2 “t”s.

Page 9--excellent way of giving the audience the info they need to know about what’s going on by explaining it to Witwer.

Page 12--nice subtext in the husband-wife conversation and the son’s ironic recitation.

Page 13--Anderton notices the discrepancy of left to right. He should use that same logic to notice the waves in the Anne Lively murder!

Page 14--It’s Fletcher who knows where the merry-go-rounds are. It should be Anderton!! Then we could have an “Aha!” moment later as Anderton watches his son on video -- on a merry-go-round. It would be an opportunity to give subtext and a deeper level to Anderton’s grief. He could even know that they “just put that swing in to the left of the one of the one on…St.”

Page 19--A great sequence full of suspense and nice juxtaposition of the lovers, the murder-minded husband and the cops. It gives us the whole concept of Precrime.

Logic question: Surely everyone in these futuristic world knows about Precrime and it prevents a lot of murders, so why did Marks not get the connection? Or was he too blinded by jealousy? Surely anyone who even contemplates murder in these circumstances should be locked up for stupidity or mental illness. Was Marks really just trying to scare his wife? Perhaps the message is no one gets to defend themselves. There are no second chances, no leniency, no justification.

Page 22—Anderton puts his gun under his pillow. Is that necessary? Or just an old habit? Is he paranoid or just stuck?

Page 25—Everyone’s too cozy with Witwer. Some conflict is needed here.

Page 28—good setup of Hineman. We are introduced to her by her reputation long before we meet her in person. Expectations of who she is are built up.

Page 30—humorous choice of names for the precogs: Agatha (Christie), Arthur (Conan Doyle), Dashiell (Hammett)—-all mystery writers.

Page 32—this scene needs more subtext. Witwer is seemingly nice on the surface but he’s hitting Anderton where it hurts. Anderton wouldn’t let on. It would be a good place to show some underhandedness on Witwer’s part and to sprinkle some suspicion his way. Does someone teach him how the process works so well that they then say: “Better watch that guy or before long he’ll be dubbing in his own scenes and we won’t be able to tell the diff.” They’re just kidding of course. We know that, but it still plants a tiny seed of doubt. We know someone had to do that to frame Anderton.

Page 35-- Instead of : He takes a breath, looks at Anderton standing there.

SAY: “He takes a breath, looks at Anderton.”

NOTE: Do a search of your script for the word “there”. You use it too often in the description--24 times. Mostly you can simply delete it or find another way to say it.

Page 37—what’s the point of telling us the origin of graveyard shift and saved by the bell if you aren’t going to use it in some way? Remember relevancy.

Page 39—nice setup for the eye swapping.

Page 40—there are more missing data cases?! This should figure into the story somehow. Did Burgess commit other murders and hide them this way? You’re leaving too many loose ends.

Page 41—Burgess knows Anderton’s on “the whiff”. Has Anderton been followed, observed? Burgess pretends concern but his concern isn’t real. If he was concerned he’d act on it. Instead he uses it against Anderton. Burgess has a cold. Did he get it from Dr. Eddie? Both characters have colds. Why those two? Could there be a connection? Should there be a connection?

Page 42— Burgess tells Anderton, “People trust you…” andWe both know I'm not the generation anyone listens to.” If that’s how he really feels then why, oh, why does he set Anderton of all people up? Is he out to destroy Precrime? At this point Anderton has barely investigated Anne Lively’s murder. Why not kill Iris Hineman so Anderton won’t have anyone to tell him about the minority reports? She lives far away, perhaps out of range of the precogs. Anderton is too valuable to Precrime—he’s the Chief, the spokesman. Hineman has outlived her usefulness, she’s “out to pasture” figuratively speaking. Expendable.

Page 44—Eutruscans should be spelled “Etruscans”.

See page 19 notes. If you made it clear earlier that there’s no mercy in this system, you could eliminate the interview scene.

Page 45—What’s the purpose of watching Anderton wallow in the past again? We took it all in the first time. This scene could be cut.

Page 47—LOGIC PROBLEM: We are to believe that Anderton is up there conducting the images and, if he’s the guilty party, still surprised at the red ball coming down with his name? He even starts to work on the Crow case. Do his co-workers and the witnesses think he’s stupid enough to contemplate murder, even start the investigation, call in James and Pollard and not be caught? A guilty man wouldn’t act that way.

Page 51—nice ironic subtext when Witwer says he didn’t hear a red ball.

Page 52 Burgess says the cerebral output can’t be faked. “We’re years from that.” So how does Burgess do it? You need to show that the technology IS available.

 

Page 63 -- Instead of : We hear CLASSICAL MUSIC O.S. and Anderton moves through the gardens towards it.

SAY: “CLASSICAL MUSIC emanates from the greenhouse. Anderton moves toward the sound.”

Instead of: Where we see A WOMAN, 50, dressed in a wide-brimmed hat and gardening attire, attending to the plants, gently spraying, then wiping each leaf with a small, square cloth...

SAY: “A woman, 50, dressed in her gardening attire, tends the greenhouse plants.”

Note: see notes for page 25. We’ve been expecting someone quite different. Our interest is tweaked.

Page 66—Burgess is “paternal” about Anderton--ironic when he’s setting him up.

Too much info is being given away--Burgess’s duplicity is planted as a possibility. If you implicate him too soon it takes away from the betrayal later. It should come as a complete surprise, which is difficult considering the predictability of the situation.

NOTE: You should throw more suspicion on Witwer. Anderton believes Witwer framed him. Build on that.

Page 72—Witwer knows Anderton is innocent! Does that mean he framed him? Would he be making that statement out loud if he had? Doubtful. If you’re going to throw suspicion on Witwer you have to remove that statement.

Page 80--Dr. Eddie’s past association with Anderton is a setup – one that never pays off. Everything should have a completion and be somehow relevant to the story. Tying in Lycon the drug dealer here is good as it ups the ante. We wonder how Lycon lost his eyes and worry that Anderton will also lose his. Will he become the one-eyed man who is king in the world of the blind? It appears so when Anderton becomes half-blind. Refer to notes on page 7.

NOTE: This is a symbol that he has to change his way of seeing/looking at his life!

Page 90—great sequence with the spiders.

Page 98— One flaw that is never dealt with here is that the nationalization will require many hundreds of precogs. Where are these to come from? Is there a precog farm somewhere?

Also -- “WITWER

(tears in his eyes)

Please, bring her back.”

I think you mean Wally says that.

Page 102—is the scene where Agatha saves Nathan really necessary? Not in the strictest sense. It does allow her to do something nice and therefore become more human in our eyes. Too bad Anderton couldn’t do the same somewhere much earlier.

NOTE: You may want to read a book called Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It deals with precisely this type of situation.

Page 112--the escape from the mall takes too long, and could be shortened. It could end as Anderton unfurls his umbrella…which would segue into the next scene. Start the next scene as “The umbrella moves aside to reveal a billboard featuring a man in dark glasses.”

Page 142--the scene between Fletcher and Knott doesn’t move the story along or add meaningful character development. Delete it.

Page 151—Burgess shoots Anderton. No further mention or indication is made of how seriously Anderton is hurt.

 

SUMMARY -- WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE:

Decide which path you’ll take to make us identify with Anderton and increase the emotional involvement.

Decide who the antagonist is and take the steps to make that clear.

Show how Anderton is set up.

Work on a new ending.

 

All of these suggestions are simply that. You are under no obligation to follow any of my advice. If you wish to develop these ideas further, we can discuss your script and determine which course of action you have chosen to take.

I am available for ongoing coaching, rewrites and script doctoring. Loglines are the hardest part for most screenwriters. I am always ready and willing to help.

If I can be of any further service, please let me know. I wish you the best in your future endeavors.

Sincerely

Angela Falkowska

http://scriptconsult.com

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