First Ten Pages: The Kids Are All Right (2010)

By August 29, 2017March 11th, 2018Main, Screenwriting 101

Screenplay by: Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg

The Kids Are All Right centers on a married lesbian couple and their two children. The children are drawn to discover their “Father” aka sperm donor. The married couple attempts to accept their children’s need to explore this, proving to be especially difficult for them.

Through this, it’s depicted that with time and change, people can (and will) lose themselves along the way. How to navigate such, while maintaining ones own sanity and happiness – all while not jeopardizing the people you love.

Establishing tone and/or genre:

The Kids Are All Right is a flawless concoction of drama and comedy (dramedy), revealed effortlessly on both ends of the spectrum.

Regarding the comedic tone, it shines through characters, their personalities, and their realistically spoken, sharp-witted dialogue. Whereas the dramatic tone is demonstrated through imperative set up via pre-existing conflicts. This, ultimately, ties back to characters’ relationships, together and independently.

Below are examples of these set ups, indicating the film’s dramatic tone. Then through the dialogue, you will undoubtedly pick up on its comedic layer:

A) Laser and his questionable friendship with Clay:

B) Joni and Jai’s on the fence “friendship”:

C) Jules and Nic’s marriage:

D) Joni and Laser’s conversation about contacting their “Father”:

Introducing the main characters:

Several character names were revealed under “Establishing tone and/or genre”, but to specify, The Kids Are All Right is an ensemble piece with five leads. The first ten pages display well-defined hints that depict their apparent personalities, which flourish as the film proceeds. In regard to the lead characters…

Jules: Carefree, with a hippy-like perspective:

Nic: Uptight, on edge, persistent.

Joni: Intelligent, the “good” kid.

Laser: A little lost, immature.

Paul: His character personality (and role: sperm donor) isn’t unveiled in the first ten-pages, but he is set up at the end of the tenth page.

We physically meet Paul after this moment, upon the immediate start of page eleven.

Crafting the world of the story: 

The Kids Are All Right is set in a suburban town and the suburban-esque “experience” couldn’t have been more perfectly painted. It’s detailed through a simple, yet descriptive action and is the first thing that’s introduced:

In addition to bringing us into the world, this action also says that a story, which revolves around family and relationships – to whatever degree – can be anticipated.

Establishing theme and/or the message:

The existing themes in The Kids Are All Right are heartbreaking, sincere, and complex. This is due to its (undeniable) relatable context. Things as humans we all experience, ultimately connecting us as a greater whole regardless of sex, race, sexuality, religion, and so forth.

These themes center on self-discovery, growth, maturity vs. age, partnership, the essence of time and change, and the meaning of love. All of which are set up through the characters and their relationships. This is found under “Establishing tone and/or genre”:

  1. A) Laser and his questionable friendship with Clay.
  2. D) Joni and Laser’s conversation about contacting their “Father.”
  3. C) Jules and Nic’s marriage.
  4. B) Joni and Jai’s on the fence “friendship.”

To read script excerpts of these examples, refer back to “Establishing tone and/or genre.” By referring back, you will see set up for these themes. Then, upon reading the rest of the script or watching the film, how immensely they mature.

To be clear, the themes are also demonstrated through characters not listed above (example: Paul, sperm donor) and character relationships not revealed within the first ten pages (example: Paul and the children, Paul and Jules, Paul and Nic, etc). Essentially, almost all characters have some kind of cause and effect on each another, and what that means in regard to their self-growth (or not).

Setting up the dramatic situation:

Conflicts, which ultimately convey The Kids Are All Right’s themes, are communicated through various relationships – probably quickly realizing how vital “relationships”, with oneself or another, are to this story. With that said, there is an apparent central conflict of which all things revolve around. This acts as the film’s primary catalyst.

It starts with Joni and Laser’s conversation in her room, very much hinting at what is to come: refer to point D) under “Establishing tone and/or genre.”

After Joni considers Laser’s words, she snoops around her Mothers’ office and finds what she is looking for, her and Laser’s sperm donor’s information: refer to PAUL under “Introducing the main characters.”

The dramatic situation isn’t spelled out for the viewers, but it clearly alludes to it.

Soon after page ten, Joni and Laser meet their sperm donor of a “Father”, which advances the themes of all the leads, leaving them to question their insecurities, vulnerabilities, flaws, and relationships.


Danielle Karagannis is a writer/director. She currently has a feature script entitled INSOMNIA (ensemble comedy) that’s been accepted into filmmaker labs and is taking her to the 2018 Berlinale / EFM. You can watch Danielle‘s latest film, GIRL (short), here: http://www.daniellekaragannis.com/watch and can follow her on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/cansathefan/.


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