90 MILES presents as a political drama. The opening scene sets the dramatic tone and offers a tension-filled sequence, in which two men struggle in the water. It certainly reminds one of the recent scenes in the news of refugees’ real-life struggle. It makes for a solid opening. The story then transitions to the past establishing the ordinary world of the protagonist, Alberto. Make sure to label the setting as being Cuba. The idea of the sugarcane field is nicely highlighted, as is the political backdrop. One can sense that Alberto’s world is changing for his family.
The best scenes introduce Sanyon Hernandez. He’s well depicted as a controlling and chilling adversary to be afraid of. The scene of him teaching about where food comes from is strong and conveys a lot of information about his character. In addition, the idea of what is “mine” and property possession is well highlighted, as a theme foreshadowing what appears to be a struggle over property and civil rights. It’s nicely conveyed when Moise steals the ball, exclaiming “my ball”. The scenes that aren’t as strong are the conversations between the women.
This can be tightened as to not slow down the pace. There are also two scenes with young Alberto and his young friend, Aidita, which also conveys the same information. Given the importance of the first ten pages, keep the scenes short and intriguing. Try to create tension or conflict while setting up the plot. Alberto appears to be the main protagonist. The audience easily likes him and roots for him. As an adult in the opening scene, he seems strong and determined; he’s not willing to give up. One can tell that he’s close to his father. As a young boy, he seems to understand right from wrong.
He knows that the leaders are not helping the people. His fear of a snake is interesting. It may be symbolic of his eventual character growth in which, later, he will no longer be fearful. The snake may represent the government and the foe. He shares a sweet friendship with young, Aidita. Aidita seems to want to be positive. She thinks by being nice, everything will be okay “attract more flies with honey. ” Moise is just like his father and he wears the red scarf symbolic of his belief. He’s spoiled, controlling, and mean-spirited. He likes to take what’s not his, oreshadowing the taking of the sugarcane farm. It will be interesting to see him as an adult.
Agustina and Rysa each have a different view of life that creates some conflict, but they aren’t characters, yet, the fully engage the audience. However, the visual of the clothes falling down, is nicely symbolic, foreshadowing what is to come. One can work hard, only just to see it all fall apart. The dialogue is sharp and conveys information about the characters; the only concern is having scenes that feel talky (Agustina and Rysa). Make sure to create a solid inciting event within the first act.
It should be a catalyst that propels the protagonist to change. The protagonist needs to declare a goal or objective. The second act should be focused on that goal. In a drama, the story may be driven more by the character and his emotional goal. Based on the working logline, the inciting event would be the seizing of his family’s property and this propels him to escape to find his family in America. Again, the inciting event should occur in the first act. The second act should be his plan of action. Make the escape exciting with the threat of discovery.
Make sure there are plenty of obstacles to overcome. Don’t make anything too easy for the protagonist. Identify the protagonist’s inner conflict and struggle, and at the end show how the character has transformed. Other notes: A description says that Alberto draws strengths from Aidita’s independent nature. Remember, the audience can’t see this description so it has to be conveyed in action or dialogue. Father Domingo’s description is also too vague and can’t be “seen. ” It not clear what is meant by the aura, etc. In summary, the first 10 pages open nicely.
It conveys a foreboding political drama or thriller. There’s a likable protagonist and what appears to be a chilling and worthy adversary. However, be careful of too much dialogue, as this will slow down the pace. The school scene is good, but then consider perhaps Alberto overhearing his parents talking about the fear they might have about losing the sugarcane farm. Or show visually what the current government does to people, who don’t conform – maybe show someone else’s home being seized, or someone being arrested for not conforming. These are actions that can generate more tension in the opening.