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Thunderbird Lane

4th Cut Notes 2022-11-17


I love that it starts with audio and transitions to the visual. Really nice.

I know this is a rough cut. That said, PLEASE GET A MORE EXCITING CREDIT FONT! 😁

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It’s a font that works for serious purposes, with a subtle whimsy if you look close. I use it for almost everything, including this page.




Could this open the painting scene? I like seeing Russell sit in the chair, and what came before could be folded in after this. The previous minutes feel a touch overlong – in the opening minutes the audience is hungry for conflict and context. We sense conflict between them but don’t know its root, and we want to find out.

You might try trimming a couple of the wisecracks to see if they’re necessary. We get this side of him quickly, so you can accelerate into the conflict now that it’s established. 




Look at the pause between his “language of love” and her “well” as an example of dead air. The pacing bitch in me wants the lines to go clickety-click so we stay a half-skip ahead of the audience. Right now, the pacing feels alongside them, if that makes sense.




I love the cut from his story to Esther’s hand painting. I’d love just a glance at her face to see where her head is at.




The title feels perhaps a little late? I love it when credits play over the scenes, I should add.

Also, if you want any fancy credit visuals just let me know. I am a whiz at Adobe After Effects!



LOVE the lighting and intimacy of this scene. And brava on getting the sound so clear what with all of the splashing and etc. that you must have contended with.


This intimacy is a welcome transition that comes at just the right time, because as I said the audience is wondering what the rules of their relationship are.



“I can’t believe he’s dead” – seems a little on-the-nose maybe? If it’s the performance, is there another take?

You could almost cut that information, going directly to “Our daughter’s getting married (etc)” The mirror over the bed joke is great, it’s a nice acting moment for him. And then the dialogue about Bobby flows in naturally and gets the information across.



I know the Peppermill! It’s where I’d stay after a week at Burning Man, washing off endless layers of dust in the bathtub. These little authentic references are gold. 


I remember you saying that we look at the same moon. I love that and think about it often. It’s a nice out to the scene.


The move through the house dropped the bubble a bit for me. I wasn’t sure if I was seeing a first-person POV. Maybe a gentle fade in, beginning with the sounds of him laughing, then bring in visuals at the door?



The father-daughter back-and-forth with the groceries could likewise move faster. The audience is ahead of it, I think. If you need to cut away to something, I wonder if there’s a way to see Esther listening?



Really nice casting with the family. The daughter really looks like she could be their child. Those great noses on all three of them. You’re laying nice groundwork getting the audience to care about this family unit.



The piano setup feels long – and I don’t know if it’s a temp song, but I suggest getting audience eyes off of her hands as fast as possible! I noticed that her hands weren’t matching the music, and then I noticed the hat perched “just so” on the piano, etc.!


It’s nice to see father and daughter engaging in play. It gives history to the relationship. 



I was baffled by the end of this scene! It takes a sudden turn. 



Consider cutting the “I think” so the line is just “Russell really needs me right now.”




If I have one global suggestion, it is to enter the scenes later. Let the audience catch up a bit.



I like the actress playing the daughter. The character is a kind of personality that is rarely represented. It’s refreshing.

I thought that she was weeping about Bobby for some reason. But it makes sense that she’s thinking of her Dad. I’m not sure about the audio effects on the dialogue. Maybe see what happens if you plug in brief video snippets of him saying the lines? It might break the beauty of the sunset in a compelling way. (Really nice shots BTW.)



Are they moving into the bathroom (ie. Is this one continuous scene?) – because if so, it might be worth cutting it abruptly here as though ten minutes have passed and now they’re in the bathroom. So it would make two shorter scenes from one longer one. I feel that the pace could hasten a bit here, and shorter scenes are great toward that end.



I think you can land a laugh if you cut abruptly from “breastfeed her” to the car driving. His exit response strikes me as negative and I’m not tracking why. It may be the performance of the line. But it’s a gift, because I suspect that in a theater with a full audience, you would land a solid laugh from the abruptness of cutting to the car. 


The humor is the “touché” of Esther wisecracking to the wisecracker, and by cutting to the car we assume that he was left speechless.



I could not ascertain where we were – I imagine this is probably just roughing it in. Something like an establishing shot would go a long way here. At first when I saw the older woman and girl with the bubbles I assumed it was a mother-daughter flashback scene.


You sent a video before with some really nice dreamy imagery – could you fold some of that into the transition?


Drums. Drums. Lots of drums. Even if we don’t see anyone drumming. I’d love as Russell and Esther get closer, we hear the sound of drums rising. 


I think of the Radical Faerie gatherings I attended in Tennessee – there is always someone with a drum in earshot no matter where one goes. It’s lovely.



You’ve developed a nice tension here as he enters the scene – there are some real stakes established, and I’m cringing a bit (in a good way) considering what may unfold.



The first shot of the daughter as Russell begins to sing is a bit dour. She looks put-out and suspicious. It might be nice to see her really keeping it cool throughout, so the twist of the knife is raw and sudden.


It’s really nice when she smiles as he sings (in the rest of the inserts).



Elka looks GREAT! She really does. The blond hair is lovely. And she’s filled out in a nice way. Good for her!



I LOVE the lines about truth and not living by lies. The truth IS power. (And can be dangerous to those unfortunates in possession of the ugly truth.) The truth can be papered over but it cannot be changed.


The tone feels really right and respectful. I imagined something more orgiastic when I read the script. Not that I'd hate it.



This is nothing the audience would think, but I did: Is that a wig? If so, it’s a good one.



The tension in the scene is with Russell. Over the course of the ceremony maybe fold in a few shots of him watching (if you have them) – maybe with a neutral expression.



Okay. The spine is all there. Now I think this mise-en-scene needs a goose of woo-woo hippie energy in the good ways. As with my Tennessee experiences, sometimes things got a little too ceremonial and precious but I learned to roll with it and something authentic would emerge eventually. 


As I said I loved those surreal dreamy shots you sent way back when. Music will help too. It feels a little bare-bones (as it should right now). I know you have some beauty on hand to layer in! 



The lightning could use a boost from the visual effects department. Let me know if you want summa Mr. Whitty’s After Effects magic.



“Russell, you ruined everything” – “I know” –


I think these lines can go. They strike me as too on the nose (and the fact that they stick out to me is a complement, because you don’t do that elsewhere!). We don’t need to hear Esther say what we already see. 


The more interesting initial dialogue is right there: 


“That was a long time ago.”


It suggests that there’s been a whole nontextual conversation, and he’s just picking it up now in words. It piques audience attention.



I am living for the Esther actress’s performance in this scene. 


She looks perfectly hellish, too. Good for her.


Russell’s line “Oh she feels a whole lot better now” is hilarious, and gets the audience on his side some to balance it all out. 



This may seem an offensive question, but I’m serious: did you intentionally write Russell to have Aspergers? He has a lot of the qualities, even his manner of speaking, and the way he boils over and harms himself is really spot-on. (I always get along with Aspy folk.)




I suggest cutting the “fuck fuck fucks” – which feel on the nose – and just have him sitting in silence throwing the objects. You can’t see his mouth moving what with his beard.




This bar feels spare! Layer in some jukebox music, pool balls clicking, voices. I suggest darkening the scene as well. The lighting right now feels very similar to the home interiors.


I want to feel like there are others there. I wonder if you could layer in some people walking by in the foreground (on greenscreen), so they block the view of Russell as they pass? That’s the kind of thing I can do. 


Thru to credits

After Russell turns with the paint on his face, I didn’t want any more words.


Maybe no dialogue for the rest of the movie?

Can you do tiny reshoots? If not I have an alternative. If you can, these would be easy – just music, no audible words:


  • We see Russell onstage performing, looking relaxed and happy.

  • On a laughing crowd (stock footage)

  • Tight on Esther, laughing in the crowd.

  • Russell has exited the stage door, signs an autograph, looks around. No Esther.

  • Using the existing footage, Russell appears with flowers. 

  • Donna is doing something liberating – driving in a convertible, playing dodgeball with friends, she’s laughing, she’s free. You may have some footage laying around. I think the audience is wondering about her.

  • Back in the gallery, Esther shows Russell the painting. They walk off together. Fade out.




You could also do the same thing more simply, using the gallery footage, making it feel a little dreamy – again, I don’t think many words are necessary, the semiotics say everything.


GREAT WORK, MY DEAR! It's a trippy story that has a lot of surprises. I stayed with it throughout (my ADHD is my barometer of storytelling success). I think that tiny surgical pacing cuts will keep the bubble in the air. I think that we get Russell's reflexive joking early, and that trimming a few of his gags will let the audience in.

I love you dearly and congratulations! And seriously, hit me up for some After Effects magic if you'd like.

Keep me posted on how it's all going!! I'm excited for this.

Much love,


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