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Script Pipeline

6th Annual 2017 First Look Project Results

By | First Look Project Winners



Dead Man’s Gulch by Rob Rex – Winner

Rob Rex is a screenwriter from Telluride, Colorado — which is important, because it says a lot about the influences that shape his writing.

Known to most for its world-class skiing, extreme sports, and year-round festivals, Rob has found (or was born with) a particular fascination with Telluride’s Wild West history of bank robbers, outlaws, miners, and bootstrappers. But there’s more to it than that. The dramatic peaks and vertical cliff faces — formed over millennia and blanketed by a night sky so dark that you can see the Milky Way with your naked eye — evoke grander schemes and otherworldly muses. Thus, both history and science-fiction intermingle in much of Rob’s work.

Rob has won a number of awards for his writing. His dual wins in Script Pipeline’s First Look Project (Action/Adventure and Sci-Fi) mark the first time in competition history that a single writer has won with two different screenplays in the same year. Rob has also won Silver and Bronze PAGE awards, two second place wins at the Cinequest Film Festival, two Top 3 placements at the Austin Film Festival, and a Semi-Final placement in the Nicholl Fellowship.

Wendigo Mike Langer – Finalist


F*ck You, John by Zac Kish – Winner

Zac Kish grew up as a military brat, bouncing from town to town, country to country, experiencing glorious adventures ranging from fishing for piranha in the Amazon to this one time he got e-coli at the bottom of Peru’s Colca Canyon and threw up on the donkey he was riding out of the valley and it got on him and it got on the donkey and it got on the guide and it was awkward and gross and pathetic and they still had like three hours to go and he still kinda feels bad for the donkey.

Zac’s writing is animated without animation… buoyant, at times over-the-top,  genre-bending, nostalgia-satisfying, dash-filled comedy that maintains the heartfelt qualities of animation within live-action. Growing up on Disney musicals, anime, superhero comics, and stop-motion Christmas specials, Zac still loves classic heart, cartoons, and innocence… then totally corrupting it with his own adult baggage.

Since recently graduating from NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study, Zac has gone on to be a semifinalist in the 2016 Academy Nicholl Fellowships, a semifinalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival Screenwriting Competition, and is currently developing a project with Unique Features.

Murder Me by David Luz – Finalist


Six Letter Word by Lisanne Sartor – Winner

Lisanne Sartor gained notoriety early in life for: 1) Calling her fourth-grade teacher a female chauvinist for not letting girls play kickball with boys (a clear outrage). 2) Giving impromptu sex-ed seminars to her fifth-grade cohorts using Judy Blum’s classic FOREVER as her textbook (how proud were Sartor’s parents? Surprisingly, not very). 3) Calling her eighth-grade teacher a bitch for unfairly penalizing a fellow student for talking when in fact, Sartor was the culprit. (The vice principal told Sartor that, while he shared her opinion of said teacher, Sartor would be wise to keep such future opinions to herself. She never quite learned that lesson.)

Though Sartor seemed destined for a life of activism and politics after graduating from Yale, she instead moved to Los Angeles and became a Directors Guild assistant director via the DGA Training Program (a girl’s gotta eat). This career path made sense considering the fact that Sartor’s New Jersey Italian family’s favorite adage is: “If you want to play with the big dogs, you can’t piss like a puppy.” Being an assistant director is a tough, physical, “big dog” job and Sartor was damn good at it. But after seven years, she had a bad back, nerve damage in her feet and a Biblical appreciation for caffeine. It was time to figure out what kind of dog she truly was. She quit ADing to write screenplays and has never looked back.

Sartor subsequently got a UCLA MFA in Screenwriting, had one of her original screenplays made into a Lifetime MOW, worked on projects with various production companies, and since 2006, has helped run CineStory, a screenwriting non-profit dedicated to developing emerging screenwriters through mentorship and writers retreats.

She’s also an award-winning director who got her start at the prestigious AFI Directing Workshop for Women. Her short films have screened all over the world at wonderful festivals like Telluride and Cannes. She most recently participated in the AFI/Fox Bridge Program for Directing. She’s in the financing/casting stage of her first feature and is prepping her sixth short. She doesn’t sleep much.

And she doesn’t piss like a puppy.

Lone Wolf by Kyle Bellinger – Finalist


The Thin Place by Joe Hemphill III – Winner

Joe Hemphill is a writer currently based in Boston, MA. Originally from the Midwest, Joe left his hometown and went south to begin his career in filmmaking, attending Watkins College of Art in Nashville, TN. Here he wrote several award-winning shorts, including his acclaimed World War II film Springtime, which premiered at the Nashville Film Festival and was selected to screen at the historic Belcourt Theatre downtown. Following his stay in Music City, Joe decided to further his education at Boston University, gaining acceptance into the MFA in Screenwriting program where he is currently finishing up his master’s degree. His pilot script Can-Am recently won the Brinkerhoff Television Pilot Contest in 2017.

Along with writing, Joe has participated in over twenty-five short films and features, filling every role imaginable, including director, AD, producer, UPM, and production designer. He is a huge proponent of independent cinema and the Boston film scene. His screenplay The Christmas Party is currently in pre-production, and several others are out for finance/directors in New York and LA .

The Ones Who Stay by Jef Burnham – Finalist


Axis by Rob Rex – Winner
(see bio above)

Ink by Heidi Nyburg – Finalist


Silicon Curve by Heidi Nyburg – Winner

A first-generation US citizen born and raised in Silicon Valley, Heidi was destined for a life working in technology. She took that route and worked as an analyst in several industries. Then a friend told her about a brand new company where they rode scooters in the hallways and watched movies. Despite her lack of scooter proficiency, the movie thing was a huge draw. That company turned out to be Netflix. She spent several years there, first as an analyst and was later promoted to product management. After taking a weekend course in writing for television, Netflix founder Reed Hastings would often remark to her “that’s going in your screenplay!” Heidi thought Reed might be onto something.

After working at Netflix, Heidi graduated cum laude from San Jose State University with a degree in Television and Film. While attending SJSU, she wrote and directed several short films garnering awards for Best Screenplay and Audience Choice for Best Picture. She co-produced Spartan Film Studios’ feature film Always Learning which premiered at the Austin Film Festival as a Write/Rec selection in 2013, and was the recipient of the 2013 Rising Star Award from the Canada International Film Festival.

Heidi is also a graduate of the UCLA Professional Program in Screenwriting and the UCLA Professional Program in Television Writing. Her main focus is character-driven, hour-long dramatic television. She is thrilled to be working with Script Pipeline and honored that her original dramatic pilot Silicon Curve was chosen as the 2017 First Look Project winner.

Default by Hannah Dillon – Finalist
Panthers by Eric Anthony Glover – Finalist
It Came from Camp Valkyrie by Dani Messerschmidt – Finalist
Sorority Ghosts by Annie Pace – Finalist


Chimeras by Gianluca Minucci – Winner
Nora by Shepherd Ahlers – Finalist
The Parker Tribe by Jane Baker – Finalist
The Plague by Guillermo Carbonell – Finalist

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Tragedy is, unfortunately, universal. What isn’t universal, though, is how we cope with it. Take Mildred Hayes. Seven months ago, her daughter was gruesomely murdered, and her local police department doesn’t so much as have a lead. Fed up with their lack of effort, Mildred rents three billboards on a dirt road asking the chief of police why no arrests have been made and unapologetically drags her entire town into her grieving process.

With Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, writer/director Martin McDonagh, continuing in the tradition of his previous films In Bruges and Seven Psycopaths, has created another strong dark comedy with even stronger characters at its heart. Mildred Hayes (Frances McDormand in a committed performance), on paper, could come across as abrasive, but everything she does is a direct result of her daughter’s death and her need for closure and Mildred’s profane, outrageous attitude provides levity and humor to what might otherwise be a somber and dour drama. That’s not to say the film is thematically shallow—McDonagh is committed to showing that answers aren’t easy to come by, and he treats the would-be antagonists of the story (the cops whom Mildred views as ineffectual and apathetic) with surprising nuance. This isn’t a movie with clear-cut villains and heroes; it’s a story of grief and tragedy in a small town.

As great as the film is to watch, the script is equally as great to read. Moving at a brisk pace (and an even brisker 84 pages), McDonagh’s flair for irreverent dialogue comes across on the page, and even without McDormand’s performance, Mildred feels like a fully realized human, not just a character spouting lines and monologues. And Mildred’s unrelenting commitment to finding the killer and holding the police to a higher standard, even as the whole town turns against her, drives the script and makes Mildred a character easy to root for. Because, ultimately, Three Billboards is a story about a mother’s grief and how she comes to terms with her daughter’s death.

Read the Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri Script

November 2017 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

Spec scripts made a strong showing in November. Kicking things off, Lakeshore Entertainment picked up Mark Hogan’s spec The New Mrs. Keller, which has been described as a Hitchcockian techno-thriller. Escape Artists snagged Let Her Speak, a true-story spec based on Texas state Senator Wendy Davis’s 11-hour filibuster to stall anti-abortion legislation. Sandra Bullock is attached to star. New Republic Pictures and Will Packer Productions are teaming up for Green Rush. Written by Matt Tente, the crime spec follows an ex-con who schemes with his daughter to steal millions of dollars worth of medical marijuana taxes from city hall. Amy Pascal’s Pascal Pictures picked up Envoy, a sci-fi/thriller spec written by Kat Wood. The script follows a military intelligence specialist who attempts to become the first-ever human representation to alien life. Finally, Sentient Entertainment scooped up Tony Mosher’s drama/thriller spec Sirius about two members of a Danish special forces dog sled team who get trapped not only by the frigid weather but also highly trained adversaries. Pierre Morel is set to direct.

Other script sales:

– Misha Green has signed on to write/produce the remake of Cleopatra Jones for Warner Bros.

– Sam Cohan has been tapped to adapt the documentary Monkey Business: The Adventures of Curious George’s Creators for Millennium Films. The film will follow creators H.A. and Margaret Rey as they try to escape Nazi-occupied Europe with their original Curious George manuscript.

– Quentin Tarantino will write/direct a movie about the Charles Manson murders for Sony.

– Allan Heinberg will script a Multiple Man movie for Twentieth Century Fox. James Franco is set to star.

– Burk Sharpless and Matt Sazama to adapt Morbius: The Living Vampire for Sony. This will be a spinoff from the Spider-Man franchise.

– Gary Dauberman to write/produce an Are You Afraid of the Dark? adaptation for Paramount.

– DC and New Line have found Adam Sztykiel to write their Black Adam adaptation. Dwayne Johnson to star.

The Big Sick – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Now that we’re nearing the end of 2017, studios have begun releasing scripts for potential Oscar contenders, and one film that received early and near-universal praise upon its release was The Big Sick. After watching the film, it’s easy to see its appeal. Directed by Michael Showalter and written by real-life couple Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani (based on the true story of how they met), The Big Sick effortlessly balances comedy and drama without doing a disservice to either and touches on compelling themes along the way.

Set in Chicago, the film follows Kumail (played by Nanjiani himself), an aspiring stand-up comedian and current Uber driver, and Emily (played by Zoe Kazan), a grad student studying psychology, as their relationship starts. However, after five months, Emily breaks up with Kumail after she learns he still hasn’t told his traditional Pakistani family that he is dating a white woman. (One subplot features Kumail’s mother’s attempts to set him up in an arranged marriage, or as they call it in Pakistan, “marriage,” to paraphrase one of Kumail’s jokes.) But soon after, Emily falls ill, and Kumail’s the only person able to come to the hospital… which means he has the honor of calling her parents (Holly Hunter and Ray Romano doing career-best work) after she’s placed in a medically induced coma. The film then follows Kumail as he attempts to befriend the parents, who already hate his guts since Emily told them everything.

Where The Big Sick succeeds the most is with the characters and their relationships. The banter between Kumail and Emily early on in the movie, and the excellent way Nanjiani and Kazan play off each other, makes them a couple hard to route against. The relationships—specifically the ones between Kumail and Emily, Kumail and his parents, Kumail and her parents, and Emily’s parents—help generate most of the film’s conflict. Throughout, characters don’t live up to others’ expectations, whether they be the choices they make, the lies they tell (or, conversely, the truths they speak), or how they plan to live their futures.

All in all, if you haven’t seen it yet, The Big Sick is well worth a watch: it’s a (somewhat) serious rom-com that finds humor in a tragic situation.

Read The Big Sick Script

September 2017 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

Echo Lake Productions and Royal Viking Entertainment have picked up Sean Sorensen’s spec We Interrupt This Program, based on the true story of Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds and the ensuing panic. Disney has picked up Tarell Alvin McCraney’s musical romance script Cyrano the Moor, which will combine elements from Cyrano de Bergerac and Othello. David Oyelowo and Jessica Oyelowo are set to produce. Phoenix Pictures is moving forward with A Country of Strangers, Sean Armstrong’s 2012 Black List script. The story follows the true story of a 40-year investigation into the disappearance of three young children in Australia. Murray Miller’s untitled buddy cop comedy has found a home at Universal. John Cena and Kumail Nanjiani will star, Ruben Fleischer will direct. Finally, Lisa Jones is set adapt Danielle McGuire’s non-fiction book At the Dark End of the Street for Invisible Pictures. Julie Dash to direct.

Other script sales:

– Matt Holloway and Art Marcum have been tapped to write the Men in Black spinoff for Sony.

– Eric Heisserer is set to script the Your Name remake for Bad Robot based on Makoto Shinkai’s 2016 Japanese animated film.

– Scott Bloom’s Roosevelt, a Theodore Roosevelt biopic, has found a home at Paramount. Martin Scorsese to direct, Leonard DiCaprio to star as Teddy himself.

– Sean Anders and John Morris to write Instant Family for Paramount. Anders will direct, Mark Wahlberg will star.

– JJ Abrams and Chris Terrio will write Star Wars: Episode IX. Abrams will also direct.

– Sean Carter to write and direct Suffer the Little Children, based on the Stephen King short story of the same name, for Voltage Pictures.

– Patty Jenkins, Geoff Johns, and Dave Callaham to script Wonder Woman 2 for DC and Warner Bros. Jenkins is also returning to direct.

Hidden Figures – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

At times, it feels as though Hollywood has exploited every moment in history for the sake of a movie. It’s becoming rarer and rarer to find a historical figure who hasn’t had their story portrayed in a film in some way, so nowadays, when a film zeroes in on an interesting event that few know about, it’s typically worth mentioning. However, director Theodore Melfi’s Hidden Figures goes a step further. The movie uses an event many people know about, John Glenn’s orbit around the Earth, as its backdrop but tells it from a perspective few were aware of.

Scripted by Allison Schroeder and Melfi and based on Margot Lee Shetterly’s book of the same name, Hidden Figures follows Katharine Johnson, an African American woman who calculated the trajectories that made Glenn’s mission possible, and her African American coworkers Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson during a time Virginia and NASA were still heavily segregated. Over the course of the movie, they rise in their respective fields and help make history at NASA.

Although it’s easy to see where the story is heading even with limited knowledge of the real Katharine Johnson, the moments Melfi and Schroeder chose to portray perfectly articulate the film’s themes and message. For example, one of Hidden Figures’ running threads follows Katharine as she attempts to use the restroom. Because the Langley Research Center’s bathrooms are still segregated, Katharine has to run to the basement of the only building on campus that houses a “colored” women’s room, located a half mile away, sometimes in the pouring rain, and always in high heels. But this provides a small example of the sort of race and gender discrimination these women faced throughout the movie. At every turn, they are either underestimated, ignored, or treated with hostility outright. However, most of the conflict and antagonism isn’t that explicit; rather, it’s the small reactions and subtle lines of dialogue that underscore the racism and sexism of the era. But because the odds are so heavily stacked against them, it’s hard not to hope they rocket through NASA’s glass ceiling, so to speak.

And in their own ways, Katharine, Mary, and Dorothy did. Hidden Figures may not have the intense stakes of a James Bond flick (and having the benefit of knowing the history of the Space Race and John Glenn’s mission in particular makes some plot points a foregone conclusion), but because the characters were so committed to their goals, their stories become compelling and inspirational. And the fact that the film’s themes and the characters’ struggles are still relevant today helps Hidden Figures stand out. In short, this is the sort of movie that the phrase “crowd-pleasing” was invented to describe.

Read the Hidden Figures Script

August 2017 Script Sales

By | Script Sales

Hyde Park Entertainment has picked up Lee Batchler and Janet Scott Batchler’s drama spec Jack and Dick. The story will follow John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon’s careers as friends and political rivals leading up to their presidential debate. Ashok Amritraj and Alan Gasmer are set to produce. Meanwhile, Warner Bros. is moving forward with Josh L. Gordon’s untitled sci-fi/thriller. Set in a near-future world where advances in artificial intelligence are threatening the human race, Gordon’s spec follows a young engineer who finds herself involved in a billionaire’s plan to alter the fate of humanity. Next up: Tyler MacIntyre and Chris Hill’s horror/thriller spec Nightlight has found a home at Columbia Pictures. Nightlight follows a 10-year-old boy who fends off invaders when he’s left home alone. Tyler MacIntyre is set to direct as well. Finally, Screen Gems and Royal Viking Entertainment are teaming for Peter A. Dowling’s Exposure. His action/thriller spec centers on an African American rookie cop who has to fend for her life after she captures corrupt officers murdering a drug dealer on her body cam.

Other script sales:

– Writers Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers are set to return for the Spider-Man: Homecoming sequel.

– Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are set to write the Harley Quinn and Joker spinoff for DC and Warner Bros. The writing team may also produce and direct.

– Todd Phillips and Scott Silver are set to write an unrelated Joker origin story. Phillips to possibly direct, Martin Scorsese to possibly produce, and Leonardo DiCaprio to possibly star (at least according to rumors).

– Jonathan Goldstein and John Francis Daley to adapt Olivia Koski and Jana Grcevich’s illustrated book Vacation Guide to the Solar System for Paramount.

– Geneva Robertson-Dworet will write Captain Marvel for Marvel. Academy Award–winner Brie Larson will star.

– Lionsgate has picked up David Burke’s female-led adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Annie Clark (aka St. Vincent) will direct.

– And the female-led adaptation of License to Drive is moving forward at Twentieth Century Fox. The script will be written by Alisha Brophy and Scott Miles.

– And finally, Scott McGehee and David Siegel will write and direct that female-led adaptation of Lord of the Flies you’ve probably heard about on Twitter.  This one’s at Warner Bros.

Legion – Pilot

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Within the last decade, some might argue that comic book movies have become needlessly ubiquitous. Just looking at the major studios’ upcoming slates can give the impression that Hollywood is simply in the superhero business, eschewing thoughtful character-driven films for tentpoles that feel almost interchangeable. The fate of the world is in jeopardy, special effects–ridden fight scenes ensue, hero saves the day, see you again next summer. The most successful superhero movies have either bucked that formula or twisted it to provide something fresh (take, for example, Deadpool‘s meta satire, Wonder Woman‘s feminist themes, or Logan‘s gritty western noir), but perhaps, none have done so more successfully than Legion.

Created by Noah Hawley of FX’s Fargo and based on Chris Claremont and Bill Sienkiewicz’s Marvel character, Legion ostensibly takes place in the X-Men universe, but the series plays more akin to a psychological, almost Lovecraftian or Lynchian horror movie than anything else. Sure, the majority of the characters are similar to the mutants we’ve grown to love (albeit with quirkier superpowers), but they ultimately take a back seat to the show’s namesake David Haller. Portrayed by Dan Stevens, David suffers from a variety of mental illnesses including what seems to be dissociative identity disorder and self-medicates his problems. However, he doesn’t realize that he may be, as another character notes, “the most powerful telepath we’ve ever encountered.” Worst of all, he can’t quite control his powers, making him perhaps the most dangerous mutant in the show, which is why a seemingly evil government organization, a more benevolent collective of mutants, and a mysterious cosmic entity all seem to want to get a hold of him.

Hawley leans heavily on David’s delicate mental state to supply most of the show’s suspense and horror, and it works on just about every level. The “devil with yellow eyes” and the “angriest boy in the world” continually haunt David’s (and the audience’s) dreams, and numerous set pieces set inside his past memories help keep audiences on the edge of their seats. At times, this feels less like an X-Men or Marvel show and more like American Horror Story with mutants. But that doesn’t mean the show is all horror—David’s mental state also allows Hawley quirky indulgences, including a Bollywood dance number in the show’s pilot. Basically, Legion walks a very fine line in terms of its tone, but Hawley’s writing and Stevens’ committed performance help ground the show, at least as much as a show about a psychic, schizophrenic mutant who battles demonic cosmic entities can be grounded.

Beyond David’s character, Legion features a stacked supporting cast, including the always brilliant Jean Smart, Bill Irwin and Jermaine Clement in quirky, hilarious, and heartbreaking supporting roles, and Aubrey Plaza, who turns in a bravura performance that the Emmys have somehow chosen to ignore. Also worth noting is the insane production design, which perfectly establishes the show’s aesthetic while at the same time keeping its chronological setting ambiguous, much like FX/FXX’s animated comedy Archer.

But all in all, it is rare to see a show so assured of its story and tone this early in its run. For comic book fans and non-fans alike, Legion breathes a demented breath of fresh air into a genre that has in some cases become too formulaic in plot. At very least, Twin Peaks just ended again, so you’re going to need to fill your time somehow, right?

Read the Legion Pilot

Mandalay Pictures Developing Script Pipeline Contest-Winning TV Pilot

By | Success Stories

The Devil in Evelyn, winner of the 2016 First Look Project (Teleplay), was picked up for development by Mandalay Pictures in September 2017. Script Pipeline set up the writers, brothers Ben and Tyler Soper, with meetings after extensive circulation to Pipeline’s industry network.

“Script Pipeline’s First Look Project was an awesome experience,” Ben and Tyler said. “From our first phone call, they became our personal champions and proceeded to surprise us again and again with the extent of their support.  Thanks to them, we had meetings with a manager and production companies and are now developing our pilot with Mandalay Entertainment.  Entering this contest moved our careers forward in an unprecedented way and was the smartest thing we did all year!”

A favorite of Script Pipeline judges, the horror/comedy expertly weaves genres and manages to overcome the hurdle of grounding relatable themes in an entirely unreal context.

“Probably one of the most engaging pilots I’ve ever read,” said Senior Executive Matt Joseph Misetich. “Such a well-crafted story, start to finish–with the added challenge of taking a very tricky concept and figuring out a way to make it broad without losing the edge. The Sopers have a serious future in television if they keep churning out scripts like this.”

This is the first series the Sopers have had in development. They also write horror and sci-fi for both film and TV. Previous work has placed in Slamdance, Screamfest, and ISA’s Table Read My Screenplay contest.

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Kubo and the Two Strings – Screenplay

By | Essential Reading - Screenplays and Pilots

Pixar may be getting all the gifs and Buzzfeed articles (deservingly so), but in the background, Laika has been quietly producing some of the greatest animated films ever made. Known for mastering the painstaking process of stop-motion animation, Laika got their start with Henry Selick’s excellent adaptation of Coraline, and they haven’t slowed down since. Although they only have four films to their name, their relatively small oeuvre could easily rank among Pixar’s best.

Laika continued their streak last year with the criminally under-watched Kubo and the Two Strings. Written by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler and directed by Travis Knight, Kubo follows a young boy named Kubo who plays a magical shamisen. He sets off on a journey with a talking monkey and a samurai who was turned in a beetle to avenge his mother’s death.

So the story may follow the archetypical “hero’s journey” as described by Joseph Campbell, with the call to adventure and the various challenges along the way that pit good against evil, but what makes the script so great (and what earns the movie its 97% on Rotten Tomatoes) are its themes. As has become expected in modern children’s movies, Kubo doesn’t shy away from a mature depiction of its themes: family, death, empathy, and memory. Memory is the movie’s focus in particular—Kubo surprisingly and poignantly depicts early onset Alzheimer’s in a manner that rivals most “adult” films.

Anchored by a strong script and featuring one of the most realized fantasy worlds in recent memory, Kubo and the Two Strings is an excellent watch for anyone who appreciates great storytelling or animation in general.

Read the Kubo and the Two Strings Script