Monday, April 16, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: Paper Moon (1973) - 1st vs. Final Draft & Change in Tone

[Quick Summary: When a small time hustler is roped into delivering a newly orphaned 9 y.o. to her aunt, he is surprised to find a like minded partner in crime.]


I normally don't read early drafts of scripts, but this is Alvin Sargent.*

I also made an exception here because this quote made me curious:
I was sent a script called Addie Pray which was based on a book. It wasn’t too good but there were two scenes in it that were wonderful: the café scene and the scene on the hill with Trixie. Those two scenes were the only two scenes that remained after the rewriting. But they were so damned good that I said to myself, “Jesus, I could do something with this.” - Interview with Director Peter Bogdanovich
Was the original really "not too good"? What changes did the director want?

I found and read a first draft (very good, male led, sunnier, two-hander) as well as the final one (very good, female led, more vulnerable and dark, ensemble).

If I were the writer, could I deliver such big switches in vision?  I don't know.

I do wonder how the director explained the switch in tone that he wanted to the writer. It's something than an average reader may sense it but not know why.

The cafe scene below was one of the two that the director kept from the original. 
1st DRAFT: The sunnier version.

ex. "ADDIE (crying): I - want - my - money!

MOZE: All right. All right.

Silence. Moze tries to think out a solution.

ADDIE (sniffling): I mean it ain't as how you was my pa. That'd be different you was my pa.

MOZE (quickly): Well I ain't you pa so get it out of your head, you understand? Just clear it out of your head.

ADDIE: I look like ya.

MOZE: You don't look anythin' like me. I don't look no more like you than I do that hotdog.

Pause. Then, suddenly:

ADDIE (bawling louder than ever): I WANT MY POOR SWEET DEAD MAMA'S MONEY. [Funny, no?]

MOZE: ALL RIGHT, ALL RIGHT, MAYBE I's possible. It ain't like but it's possible.

Silence. Addie seems satisfied. After a moment she picks up her hotdog and starts to eat it. Moze pushes his food away. The Waitress moves to them, giving Moze the cold eye.

WAITRESS (to Addie): How we doin' Angel Pie?

ADDIE (sweetly): Jus' fine.

WAITRESS: We gonna have a little dessert?

ADDIE: I dunno. I have to ask my Daddy.

She turns to Moze and smiles."

FINAL DRAFT: The darker, more melodramatic version.

ex. "ADDIE: (louder) I want my two hundred dollars.

MOZE: Alright, alright...just hold on...(smiles at the customers) Let me explain somethin' t'you.

ADDIE: It ain't as how you was my Pa -- that'd be different. [She makes a challenging statement vs. question (1st draft).]

MOZE: Well, I ain't you pa, so get it out of your head, you understand? I don't care what those neighbor ladies said.

ADDIE: I look like ya.

MOZE: You don't look nothin' like me. You don't look no more like me than you do that Coney Island. Eat the damn thing, will you?

ADDIE: We got the same jaw. [More confrontation.]

MOZE: Lots uh people got the same jaw.

ADDIE: But it's possible, ain't it?

MOZE: No, it ain't possible.

ADDIE (louder): THEN I WANT MY TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS. [This is a demand. Moving to blackmail? Not as funny as above.]

MOZE: ALRIGHT...Maybe we got the same jaw. Same jaw don't mean the same blood! I know a woman looks like a bullfrog, but she ain't the damn thing's mother.

ADDIE: But you met my mama in a barroom. [She won't let it go.]

MOZE: For God's sake, you think ever'body gets met in a barroom gets a baby?

ADDIE: It's possible.

MOZE: Damn it, child anything's possible. But possible don't make it true.

ADDIE: Then I want my MONEY!

MOZE: Will you quiet down.

Everybody is looking now. Addie is silent.

MOZE (softly): You don't have no appreciation, that's the trouble with you. Maybe I did get some money from that man. Well, you're entitled to that. And I'm entitled to my share for gettin' it, ain't I? I mean it weren't for me where'd you be? Some orphan home, that's where. You think them folks'd spend a penny to send you east? No sir. But who got ya a ticket t'St. Joe? Who got ya a Nehi and a Coney Island? I threw in twenty dollars extra, plus eighty-five cents for the telegram. Without me, you wouldn't have any of that. I didn't have to take you at all, but I took ya, didn't I? (pause) Well, I think that's fair 'nuf. 'N we're all better off. you get to St. Joe 'n I got a better car. Fair's fair. Now drink your Nehi and eat your Coney Island.

ADDIE: I want my two hundred dollars.

MOZE: I don't even have two hundred dollars no more, and you know it!

ADDIE (slowly): If you don't give me my two hundred dollars, I'm gonna tell a policeman how ya got it -- and he'll make ya give it to me, 'cause it's mine.

MOZE (steaming): But I don't have it.

ADDIE (slowly): Then git it. [Serious. She's not kidding.]

Moze's fist hits the counter. It all but rocks the restaurant. Everyone turns again. The Waitress moves to Moze and Addie. [His anger is a dangerous edge not found in 1st draft.]

WAITRESS (to Addie, eyes on Moze): How we doin', Angel Pie? We gonna have a little dessert after we finish up our hot dog?

ADDIE: I dunno.

WAITRESS: What d'ya say, Daddy. Whyn't we get precious here a little dessert if she eats her dog?

Addie turns to Moze. He looks at her.

MOZE (slowly): Her name ain't precious."[A serious, sour note. Not light & cheery.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The tone change reminded me once again that film is a collaboration.

The writer needs to be able to bend the material to satisfy the producer and others.

Also, it's wise for the writer to be aware when he/she isn't on the same page as the others (and may need to step away if there are creative differences). 

Paper Moon (1973)(1st draft, 12/15/71; final draft, 9/1/72)
by Alvin Sargent
Based on the book by Joe David Brown

*We're talking Ordinary People, Julia, Paper Moon, Unfaithful = 3 Oscar nominations, 2 wins.

Monday, April 9, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: Shampoo (1975) - Juggling Love Triangles

[Quick Summary: In 1968, George, the hairdresser who just wants to open his own shop, can barely juggle several love triangles, jealous women, and a shaky financier.]

I'm exceedingly impressed by the love triangles in this script.*

Here's a short summary (if you want to follow along):
- This is a story about George and 4 others: his ex (Jackie), his new girl (Jill), his married lover (Felicia), and Felicia's husband who is the money man (Lester).
- George is currently sleeping with Felicia and Jill, and used to date Jackie.
- Lester has fallen for Jackie and doesn't want Felicia to know.
- George wants to own his own salon but is broke. Felicia introduces him to Lester.
- Lester may invest, but wants George to escort Jackie to a party in which Lester and Felicia are attending.
- George has a date with Jill, but agrees to take Jackie. Someone else invites Jill.
- All five characters attend the party, and misunderstandings follow.

How was it possible to keep George's numerous relationship so clear in all the chaos?

I think it's because each character was fully formed. Each one had:
- a well defined desire from the start, i.e., what he/she wants
- a conflict with one (or more) character(s).

For example, in the scene below at the beauty shop:
- Felicia wants George and is willing to take crumbs. (Felicia v. George)
- George wants to keep the women happy and get his own shop with the fewest number of strings attached. (George v. women)
- Jill wants George to commit to a relationship. (Jill v. George)
ex. "FELICIA: George!

George winks at Mary, heads back.

FELICIA (continuing; going right on): I'm not used to that kind of treatment.

GEORGE: What kind of treatment?

FELICIA (going right on): I've never been treated that way, and I'm not going to start now.

GEORGE: Jesus, I don't know, baby, I been cutting too much hair lately. I'm losing all my concepts...

Jill has entered the shop. She approaches George.

JILL: George.

GEORGE: Hey, baby, what's happening?

JILL: They want me to go to Egypt for three weeks.

GEORGE: Great.

Jill stands there now, not knowing what to say.

GEORGE (continuing): Jill, say hello to Felicia.

JILL: Hello


JILL: George.

GEORGE: Yeah, baby...

JILL: How did it go at the bank?

George looks away.

GEORGE: Great.

JILL: Could I talk to you for a second?

GEORGE: Hey, I'm, you know --

JILL: Could I?

George moves away from Felicia.


JILL (with some feeling): I said I wasn't sure if I could go.

GEORGE: Go where?

JILL (impatiently): Egypt!

GEORGE: Oh great, listen, baby, I gotta get back, okay?

JILL: Okay, but how did it go at the bank?

GEORGE: Great...can we talk later?

NORMAN (the shop's owner): George!"

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  It is so clear here what desires drive the characters.  (Yet until I started writing, I had no idea how difficult it was to articulate clearly.)

Also, it was refreshing to see well rounded female antagonists with lives of their own instead of flat, 2-D props for the protagonist.

Shampoo (1975)(undated)
by Robert Towne and Warren Beatty

*Was this a comedy? A drama + comedy? I am not sure, but it was funny!

Monday, April 2, 2018

2018 OSCARS: Mudbound (2017) - Using One Topic For Multiple Reasons in One Scene

[Quick Summary: Two contrasting, interlinked stories in post-WWII Mississippi: a tenant family, and the new family who has bought the land.]

This was a good script, though it wasn't my cup of tea.

I did like how the writers structured scenes for maximum impact.

One technique was the use of a single topic, but used in multiple ways in one scene.

For example, in the scene below, the topic is "how many did Jamie killed in the war?"

It is being used to show:
- Jamie vs. Pappy (to show difference in attitudes)
- Jamie vs. Jamie (to show how Jamie sees himself)
- Henry discovers what has changed Jamie and why

Why does this work? Why am I not confused, even when Jamie contradicts himself? 

I think it's because the writers kept to one topic.  It's clear and easy to follow.

ex. "Pappy smiles with his yellow teeth. Jamie shifts in his chair and lights one cigarette with another.

PAPPY (CONT'D): One thing's for sure. You must'a killed a whole lotta Krauts to get all them medals. (beat) Well, how many'd you take out?

JAMIE: I don't know.

PAPPY: Take a guess.

JAMIE: I don't know. Why's it matter?

PAPPY: A man ought to know how many men he's killed.

Henry returns with the bottle and a glass. Jamie quickly uncorks it and pours heavily. He gulps it down and refills. Henry is surprised.

JAMIE: I can tell you this. (beat) It was more than one. [Jamie provokes Pappy. Out of spite? Resentment? Disagreement?]

HENRY (under his breath): Aw, shit.

Pappy's eyes narrow and he seethes for a beat, then smirks:

PAPPY: Well, at least I looked my one in the eye before I shot him. Not like dropping bombs from a mile up in the air.  [The topic brings out Pappy's attitude, which contrasts with Jamie's.]

Jame throws back his drink and pours another. Then there is uncomfortable silence until Henry interrupts:

HENRY: Well, good time to hit the hay. Got an early day tomorrow. [Henry is a peacemaker.]

JAMIE: I'll just finish my drink.

Pappy absorbs this, grabs a lantern and shuffles out....Henry starts to move off.

JAMIE: Actually it was more like four. [Jamie's truth comes out.]

HENRY: What? [He is awakening that there is more going on.]

JAMIE: Miles up in the air. The altitude we dropped bombs from.

HENRY: How can you even see anything from that high up?

JAMIE: You'd be surprised. Roads, cities, factories. Just not people. From twenty thousand feet they're not even ants. (beat) Pappy's right. A man ought to know.  [This seems to contradict his boasting above. But above, it was to poke at Pappy. Here, it's turned on himself. Self-loathing?]

Jamie is haunted. Henry is concerned."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I liked that the writers showed me something new that I'd not seen before. 

Mudbound (2017)
by Virgil Williams and Dee Rees
Adapted from the novel by Hillary Jordan

Monday, March 26, 2018

2018 OSCARS: Molly's Game (2017) - Assumptions & Doling Out Information

[Quick Summary: Former Olympian-turned-high-stakes-poker-acilitator Molly Bloom seeks a criminal attorney to defend her against federal racketeering charges.]

Two thoughts:

A) PROCESS OF ADAPTATION. I'm fascinated by the evolution of this project.

-The book was written before Molly was arrested.
-Sorkin realized that LOTS of interesting stuff happened before and after publication.
-If Sorkin had limited himself to the book, it would've been an entertaining, but typical story focusing on glitz and glam, rather than a deeper character study.
- The script uses the book, but relied heavily on personal interviews.

"She [Molly, who he met] wasn't who I expected her to be." - Sorkin
This is a complex story, as per usual with the material Sorkin chooses.

I was interested in how he used assumptions to dole out information.

In the exchange below with an attorney that she hopes to hire,  Molly is loyal to her former boss and clients but not these four clients. [Why? It's explained later.] 

ex. "CHARLIE (pause): Let me ask you something. Reardon -- in the book --he didn't say "Poor people bagels," did he. (beat) I think I know who he is, I think I know a real estate lawyer who worked with him and quit. He called them "nigger bagels," right?

MOLLY (pause): I'm not telling you his name, he's not involved in this. [She protects her former not-so-nice boss?]

CHARLIE: But you were willing to name the movie stars.

MOLLY: None of that matters. Why is the FBI arresting me two years after -- [She sold out on former clients? Why?]

CHARLIE: Were you paid extra in your book deal to name the movie stars?

MOLLY (pause): Yes. [Ah! An answer! But we learn later this isn't the full story....]

CHARLIE: I'm not your guy, Molly. I wish you good luck but this just isn't for me.  [We understand why Charlie is reluctant to represent her.]

MOLLY hears that but still doesn't leave."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: This script is structured to allow the set ups enough time to play out.  There was no rush to get to the pay offs. They had to be earned.

ex. In the above scene, Molly let others think the worst of her and there was no rush to defend herself.

Molly's Game (2017)(dated 12/29/15)
by Aaron Sorkin
Adapted from the book by Molly Bloom

Monday, March 19, 2018

2018 OSCARS: Logan (2017) - Clarity of Showing What is at Stake; Tension

[Quick Summary: Logan, the Wolverine, escapes with Dr. Xavier and a newly discovered mutant, Laura.]

Yes, this is a Marvel movie.

No, it's not a typical canned "superhero" movie, but actually more of a Western.

Yes, it is Oscar worthy for its level of difficulty and finesse.

No, you should not skip this script even if you don't like Westerns or superhero films.

Why? It does an excellent job of clearly showing what is at stake.

(Another way to look at "stakes":
In order to enjoy a movie [vs. a book], you need to be invested pretty quickly....What do I need to know to care enough to go on this ride? ("Logan & Scott Frank"))
In the scene below, Logan has just illegally bought pills.

1) how the writer shows rising tension by using hope-fear-hope-fear; and
2) how the writer reveals WHY Logan is afraid (it's not for himself).


Logan, now carrying the bag, hurries through the rain to his Limo. [Hope! He got the pills.] He climbs inside starts it up but is startled by the back door opening and closing. Logan spins to face -- [Fear]

A SMILING MAN in the back of his stretch. This is Donald Pierce, 35. A southern boy, smooth and playful.

PIERCE: As I live and breath. The Wolverine. And he's a junkie now. [Fear]

LOGAN: Who the fuck are you?

PIERCE: Y'know, you got some buckshot in your door....

LOGAN: Get out. Now.

PIERCE: Has she found you yet? ...Gabriela? (off Logan's blank look) See, I'm not looking for you, mutey. Not really. I'm looking for someone who's looking for you. She took something of mine. Something for which I am responsible. When I wasn't looking. Mexican lady. Long hair, long legs, Long gone. Has her sights on you. (off Logan's glare) No bells? [Hope. This is not about Logan or anyone he knows.]

LOGAN: I don't know any Gabriela. So get the fuck out.

Pierce just smiles, unfazed, then shifts his gaze to Logan's bag of pills. Peering in, quasi-conspiratorial:

PIERCE: I know what you're hiding, amigo. Cue ball south of the border? [Fear. Pierce knows where Logan's hideout is and who is there.  This is why Logan has been working so hard.]

Logan tenses, says nothing.

LOGAN: What do you want?

PIERCE: A little...cooperation.

Flicks a business card.

PIERCE (cont'd): If she does find you."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: When showing what is at stake, be sure to layer in some hope-fear-hope-fear, so that the audience will understand its importance to the character (especially when the audience may/may not agree).

Logan (2017)
by Scott Frank & James Mangold, and Michael Green
Story by James Mangold

Monday, March 12, 2018

2018 OSCARS: The Disaster Artist (2017) - Tone & Finding That Fine Line

[Quick Summary: Actor/director Tommy Wiseau and new friend Greg Sestero live out their dreams by unintentionally making the greatest bad movie, The Room.]

I was intrigued by this adaption.

First, it was not a run-of-the-mill, behind-the-scenes story, despite the ad campaign.  It actually was a deeper story about friendship and dreams.

Second, the tone walked a fine line that leaned to heartfelt vs. too comedic or unkind.

In this DGA interview, actor/director James Franco talks about crafting tone and cites these key factors:

- The main character has an "affable arrogance" that made it ok to laugh at him.
- The book's tone set the stage.  It emphasized "relatable" rather than mocking.
- Franco went to writers known for 'relationship' films.
- They aimed for a funny, crazy story, but it was more about dreamers than comedy.

In the scene below, notice that it's ironic, funny, but does not ridicule.

Tommy's "I-know-everything" arrogance makes it easy for Peter and Bill to sell double the equipment. 

Is this taking advantage? No, because Tommy WANTS to be sold all of it.

We laugh because Tommy can't see the flaw (and probably doesn't want to either).


...BILL: Hey, customer's always right, right? So, uh, you looking to shoot 35 or HD?

Tommy clearly has no idea what that means.

TOMMY: I shoot both.

Peter and Bill are flabbergasted. Greg tries to be helpful.

GREG: I think he's asking if you want to shoot on digital or film.

TOMMY: My ears work. I want to shoot with both cameras.

BILL: can't do both.

TOMMY: Why not?

PETER: You would need twice the equipment, twice the crew...They're not even lit the same --It's just not done.

TOMMY: So what you're saying is...I will be first.

PETER: What I'm saying is... NO ONE. WOULD EVER. Do it.

TOMMY: Exactly. (beat) I am not no one. I am Wiseau.

Greg high fives Tommy. Bill and Peter are stunned. Who are these guys? Peter is about to respond when Bill intervenes.

BILL: Can you gentlemen give us a moment?

Bill and Peter step off to the side. We can't hear what they're saying but they talk animatedly while keeping a keen eye on Tommy and Greg. After a few more beats, Peter and Bill return. Their attitude very different.

PETER: So we talked about it. We'll sell you all the equipment you need. And we'll give you a reduced rate on everything if you decide to shoot here.

TOMMY: Good. I like this spot.

Peter looks to Bill. They're trying to contain themselves.

PETER: Terrific! Sounds like we have a deal."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I thought tone was key in capturing the atmosphere around this confusing, well-meaning, selfish, contradictory, arrogant character.

It showed us what he was like without telling us what to think about him.

The Disaster Artist (2017)
by Scott Neustadter & Michael H. Weber
Adapted from the book, "The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, The Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made," by Greg Sestero & Tom Bissell

Monday, March 5, 2018

2018 OSCARS: Call Me By Your Name (2017) - Showing Awkwardness

[Quick Summary: In 1980s Italy, a 17 y.o. boy falls in love for the first time with the family's summer lodger, an American male graduate student.]

Though I'm only halfway through, I am quite impressed with the level of difficulty of the Oscar scripts this year. *

Today's script is quite a high wire act:

1) It's an effective, slow burn drama, AND

2) It shows what a 17 y.o.'s journey through awkwardness feels like, AND

3) It happens during every day life.  There is no "grand crisis" that speeds things up, i.e., no guns, violence, car crash, death, etc.

This script is unusual in that it makes you FEEL Elio's awkwardness through contrasting behaviors (Elio vs. others).

In the scene below, notice:
- Elio is the only one who is unsure and who is not relaxed.
- The other characters may feel that way too, but handle it differently because: a) they're older, and b) have more life experience.
-  Even Oliver is not rattled, though he does not know what to do with the egg at first. He catches on faster than Elio does. 


The PERLMANS are eating breakfast outside, in front of the kitchen. OLIVER comes out and sits down, watching how ELIO expertly cracks his soft-boiled egg shell, then attempts to do the same, but only a tiny bit of the shell is pierced, so he pretends to busy himself with his coffee and pushes the egg in its cup away. MAFALDA asks him if he would like juice. He says "Please". She looks down at the discarded egg.

MAFALDA: Lasci fare a me, Signore. (Let me)

She slices the top off and returns to her kitchen.

ANNELLA: Did you recover from your trip, caro?

OLIVER: Big time.

ELIO, who has been trying not to stare at their guest and is concentrating on spreading honey on a piece of bread, now lifts his head and speaks, growing unnaturally loud:

ELIO: I can show you around.

OLIVER: Good. Are we far from town? I need to open a bank account.

Both Professor PERLMAN and ANNELLA look up, interested.

PERLMAN (smiling): None of our residents has ever had a local bank account.

Elio turns in his seat to get a better view of Oliver, who is sitting beside him.

ELIO: Should I take him to Montodine?

PERLMAN: I'm think they're closed for summer vacation. Try Crema.

OLIVER: Is that your orchard?

PERLMAN: Pesca, ciliege, albicooche...(peaches, cherries, apricots...)

ANNELLA: Pomegranate.

MAFALDA returns with a pitcher of apricot juice on a little tray and proceeds to fill Oliver's glass. OLIVER tastes it, then enthusiastically downs it. ELIO realizes he is staring at OLIVER, his head tipped back with his throat swallowing the juice, and notices the Star of David on a necklace around his neck. OLIVER smacks his lips and begins to eat his second egg, giving it a sharp crack. MAFALDA brings him a third egg.

ANNELLA (CONT'D): Have another egg.

OLIVER (shaking his head): I know myself. If I have three, I'll have a fourth, and more.

ELIO has never heard someone Oliver's age say, I know myself. It's somewhat intimidating. He lowers his eyes."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I liked that awkwardness was shown in behavior here, rather relying on dialogue to express it.

Call Me By Your Name (2017)
by James Ivory
Adapted from the novel by Andre Aciman

*In the five years that I've read all the nominated Oscar scripts, this year's group of competitors are the strongest that I've seen.

Monday, February 26, 2018

2018 OSCARS: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017) - In the Space Between Two Characters

[Quick Summary: In a small fictional town, grieving, embittered mother of a rape victim buys three billboards to provoke the police into action.]

Two McDonagh scripts, then and now:


A few years ago, a development exec asked me to cover an unproduced script by a guy called Martin McDonagh.  I went in cold, knowing nothing, as I preferred.

I was not prepared. Not for the levels of graphic violence, swearing, nudity, etc.* Not for my wincing and/or reading in trepidation between my fingers.

Not for the brilliant grasp of story.  And especially not for my paradoxical reaction.

Officially, I was offended on behalf of humanity. 

Unofficially, I couldn't stop reading (even though I was officially offended).

What was so special?  Whether I agreed or not...Whether I might be shocked, appalled, or embarrassed, I understood what the characters wanted and why.  

2) NOW

McDonagh's scripts are getting even better. There is still clarity of motive.

However, I thought today's script was a particularly good example of the third "thing" that develops in the space between two characters.** 

In the scene below, Sheriff Willoughby is dying of cancer.  He wants the protagonist Mildred to get rid of the billboards. She wants him off her back.

Notice what forms between them in this push-and-pull scene.

ex. "WILLOUGHBY: What's Charlie think about these here billboards of yours, an ex-cop like Charlie?

MILDRED: Ex-cop, ex-wife-beater. Same difference, I guess, right? [We learn more of Charlie. What is our opinion of him? Somewhere between W and M's opinions?]

WILLOUGHBY: His word against yours, though, right? (pause) Charlie don't know about them, does he?

MILDRED: It's none of his business. [Ah! W uncovered M's secret.]

WILLOUGHBY: He's kinda paying for 'em though, ain't he?

MILDRED: I'm paying for 'em. [Do we think Charlie should know? Again, probably somewhere between W and M's opinions.]

WILLOUGHBY: This month you are. How about when...

WILLOUGHBY suddenly let's [sic] out a short sharp cough which spurts a spray of blood that hits MILDRED in the face, wholly by accident. Horrified, shaking, WILLOUGHBY tries to wipe her face with a handkerchief, MILDRED almost in tears at his embarrassment.

WILLOUGHBY (cont'd): I didn't mean to... [W's shame is about more than the blood.]

MILDRED: I know... [M knows what he means.]

WILLOUGHBY: It was an accident...

MILDRED: I know, baby. [M, at her most tender. This is startling, contrasted to her behavior everywhere else. ]

WILLOUGHBY: It's blood.

MILDRED: I know. [She's embarrassed for him, even if she can't say it.]

They're both in tears, and there's a desperation in his eyes, as he sits there shaking.

MILDRED (cont'd): I'll go get somebody... [Helpless M is not seen often. It's uncomfortable for all.]

She rushes out the door."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I liked how this space between two characters was so alive and active.  Also, it requires the audience to get involved (infer, deduce, etc.)

Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, Missouri (2017)
by Martin McDonagh

*None of which was ever gratuitous, surprisingly enough.
**I wonder if this is due to McDonagh's playwright training?

Monday, February 19, 2018

2018 OSCARS: The Shape of Water (2017) - What a Non-Verbal, Developing Romance Looks Like

[Quick Summary: In a 1962 top secret Baltimore facility, a mute janitor falls in love and frees an amphibian man, who the government wants to exploit.]

My two cents:

1) Pros and Cons

PRO: This script has several, very strong, three dimensional characters.

CON: The script delved into several characters' personal lives in order to show their bias against the creature. It pulled me out of the main story and felt tangential.

PRO: It is well written and very emotional on the page.

CON: Was there a purpose to the narration on p.1-2? It was confusing to me.

2) What a Non-Verbal, Developing Romance Looks Like

I did think the following montage was quite effective to show the developing intimacy between Elisa and the creature.

It's so romantic how they're learning more about each other and responding.   


- Five eggs. Boiling. Dancing slowly in the water.
- Elisa sets all five Boiled Eggs on the edge of the pool.
- The creature emerges. Does the sign for "egg". [He has adapted to her language.]
- Elisa chooses new records.
- Her locker room is filling up with LP's. [She's trying to figure out what he likes.]
- Elisa travels on the bus with more eggs and records. [She's making a real effort.]
- Elisa mops - a smile on her face. Zelda watches, concerned. [She shows the effects of a real relationship.]
- Elisa readies her bath - mesmerized by the water. [She thinks about him.]
- Giles watches as Elisa "borrow" extra eggs from his fridge. [Her behavior is changing.]
- Elisa packs all 7,8,9 eggs in her paper bag.
- Elisa shows a new record to the creature in the cylinder. [She brings him a gift.]
- She mops while the music plays

Quietly, Hoffstetler enters the lab just as the song ends:

The Amphibian Man bangs on the glass to ELISA and signs: "play a different record." His markings brighten. [He shows physical signs of emotional changes.]

ELISA signs- asking him to "point." The AMPHIBIAN MAN points. Elisa turns the record around. "MOONGLOW" by Benny Goodman plays.

Elisa dances in front of the cylinder. [She delights in his choice.]

The AMPHIBIAN MAN swims, delighted! [He delights in her.]

Elisa walks over and puts one hand up against the glass, slowly, the creature puts a hand up "against" hers. His markings active and color-changing. [They connect physically and emotionally.]

Her smile turns wistful. She keeps her hand there. Leans her forehead on the glass. [They show longing.]

Hoffstetler watches- a tray of raw fish in his hands- Mesmerized. Moved."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Non-verbal romance = Showing how two souls learn and connect with each other.

The Shape of Water (2017)
by Guillermo Del Toro & Vanessa Taylor
Story by Guillermo Del Toro

Monday, February 12, 2018

2018 OSCARS: Lady Bird (2017) - Humor Through Situation

[Quick Summary: A very clear, amusing character study of a 17 y.o. Sacramento girl's senior year, with the typical self-absorption and arrogance of youth.]

I liked this script because the characters were fully formed and three dimensional.

I will remember this script because:

1) The situations were very specific.*
2) The humor came out of these very specific situations (vs. funny dialogue).

This is the scene below:
- A 17 y.o. has not gotten into the school of her choice.
- This is likely her first taste of harsh reality settling in.
- She has little life experience, so handles disappointment poorly (lashes out).
- Marion is the mother. Larry is the father. Miguel is adopted brother. Shelly is Miguel's girlfriend.

Note how the humor comes out of specifics:
- The situation is funny because her hysterics are disproportionate to the big picture.
- It starts controlled and deteriorates into argument (very universal!)
- It's not so much WHAT is said as HOW words are used to thrust and parry.


Lady Bird sits at the computer with a list of instructions in front of her - Marion, Larry, Shelly and Miguel stand behind her.

LADY BIRD: It's a new system - you just enter your social security number and... [I like the building of anticipation here.]

She is presses [sic] ENTER and is lead you [sic] to a website that lists all the schools in the UC system she applied to with a "yes" or a "no" beside them. They all say no except for...

LADY BIRD (CONT'D): DAVIS?! [LB is outraged.]

MARION (relieved): Davis is good. Maybe you should have looked at it. [Very grounded response.]

LADY BIRD: It's only half an hour away! Less if you're driving fast! [This is her criteria?! Funny.]

LARRY: I went to graduate school there.

SHELLY: Lots of smart people go to Davis.

LADY BIRD: I thought Berkeley had to accept me. You and Miguel went there. I'm a legacy. [An entitled, childish, emotional response.]

LARRY: Eh, not if we don't give money. [Realistic, parental response.]

MIGUEL: And you get bad grades. [Snarky sibling response.]

LADY BIRD: Oh what do you know about it? [She doesn't know how to deal, so picks a fight.]

MIGUEL: Meaning?

LADY BIRD: Nothing. [Passive aggressive, insult.]

MIGUEL (turning red): What are you implying? YOU FUCKING RACIST. [He's offended. Conflict escalates.]

LADY BIRD: I didn't say anything. [She defends her "non" position.]

MIGUEL: I DIDN'T PUT DOWN MY RACE! [He defends against her "non" position.]

LADY BIRD: I'm sure they had no idea, MIGUEL! [More passive aggressive attacking.]

MIGUEL: You are actually fucking evil. What is wrong with you?



MARION: I did not raise you like this, I didn't --

LADY BIRD: I don't have to go ANYWHERE! I'm not going to a fucking university that's famous for it's fucking AGRICULTURAL SCHOOL. [She, stung by rejection, erupts with nonsense.]

She runs out, furious. She'd kick the computer if she could.


Miguel self-consciously puts his hand to his nose-ring, rotating it. Shelly mentally tallies all her piercings."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I'm beginning to understand that humor can come from the structure of the situation, i.e., "not what characters say, but how they say it (and what it's used for)."

Lady Bird (2017)
by Greta Gerwig

*I have noticed that when a situation is very specific, it seems very universal as well.
perPage: 10, numPages: 8, var firstText ='First'; var lastText ='Last'; var prevText ='« Previous'; var nextText ='Next »'; } expr:href='data:label.url' expr:href='data:label.url + "?&max-results=7"'