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Home: The Toast

Dear Cecilia:

I’m delighted that you’ve decided to work with us on your screenplay, “The Wind Whispered Her Name.” First of all, I think it’s a very strong piece. I have some preliminary thoughts, attached here, that will help us move forward. The notes are somewhat negotiable, but my deep experience and industry knowledge will help you sell this script.

urlPage 13: A minor dialogue tweak. When Caroline asks Fran, “how do we get out of this two-bit town,” I think the more honest answer is, “shoot ourselves out of a cannon.” The line you have (“I suppose we have to make something of ourselves”) is a little too on-the-nose. The scene also desperately needs some levity, since the only other discussion for six pages are depression, escaping cycles of poverty, dying family members, etc. Oof, downer!

Page 30: The first act break is great. We really feel for Fran as she learns from the mailman that her father has died, interrupting her work on her poetry manuscript. We understand Fran’s tendency to sentimentalize what she knows is hurting her.

I just don’t think the discussion of Leaves of Grass will grab an audience. What about something more dynamic, that an audience already knows? Like the famous Zacchini Brothers, who rode their human cannonball act to American citizenship, fame and fortune. It’s perfect! Edmondo Zacchini’s first spring-powered cannon broke his leg but later a compressed-air model launched them (literally and figuratively!) into their new life. This is exactly what Fran is hoping her poetry will do. It’s a perfect parallel. To boot, we have the chance for some really exciting flashbacks during the mailman conversation – imagine if we see Edmondo cradling his broken leg as we hear the mailman’s crying on Fran’s “dust-laced porch?” I smell Oscar buzz!

Page 56: The fight between the drunken John Marshall, Jr. and the jealous and equally drunk Rich Clement is well-paced. It’s rare in film to see an accurate depiction of a bar fight, with the sloppy punches and insults. And I can’t wait to see a talented actor handle John’s spurned look as Rich flings the barbed, “fighting’s not as fun when you’re not in one of your stories is it, pretty boy?” And the return of Fran’s lost family dog at the end, amongst the broken bottles, is an exquisite touch.

One quick note on the scene: when Rich wakes up from John’s knock out blow, what if he says, “I feel like I was shot from a cannon!” Much more pizzazz. And viewers already know that most human cannon-balls black-out in flight, but if you’re worried it won’t read, the bartender can quickly say “apparently many human cannon-balls black-out in flight like that man just did.” Or something to that effect – just sprinkle some of your writer’s magic on it!

Page 88: Rightfully, the anchor of the second act is the powerful sequence at the literary conference. Boy, when Fran and John Marshall, Jr. see each other at registration, I got chills! One change here: what if we lose the static literary conference and the protagonists are instead invited to a big traveling carnival?  It’s a wonderful opportunity for some exciting “show, not tell” moments. Imagine John Marshall, Jr., back from the big city and still a pile of ego and selfishness, watching someone shot thirty yards into a giant net? Is that not the perfect mirror of his own hubristic flight, leaving a heartbroken Fran to pursue his own literary dream only to land right where he started?

Page 97: In the same vein – what if John Marshall, Jr., instead of being invited to New York to finish his manuscript, instead joins P.T. Barnum’s circus, having always harbored dreams of becoming a human cannonball (rather than a fiction writer)? And then if Fran is an aspiring cannonball too? Their shared professional dream will only serve to heighten the tension between them. And it’s a small edit, really: the themes are much the same! Both writing and human cannon-balling are rare dreams for small town Southerners, and both deal in human emotion and explosive flights of imagination/human bodies.

Plus, I think viewers identify more with characters aspiring to be shot out of cannons than those aspiring to sit and write. To fly hundreds of yards through the air and join the ranks of greats like Ildebrando Zacchini?! I mean, wow! How inspiring!

Also what if the title were changed to “The Wind From My Cannon” or “Cannonball Whispers” or simply “Human Cannonballs?” I think that will grab viewers, especially in foreign markets.

One last note: Wow! Cecilia, great script, really wonderful stuff! I think with those few minor tweaks this story is going straight to the top!

I’ll see you (as we say in Hollywood) in the cannon!


James Folta is a writer, comedian, and carpenter living in Brooklyn. He has published writing for McSweeney's, Esquire, and others. Find his tweets at @JamesFolta or more writing at

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