Monday, August 20, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: 9 to 5 (1980) - Farce is a Skillfully Exploited Situation

[Quick Summary: Three very different female co-workers bond over some wild, crazy adventures outwitting their sexist, lying, egotistical boss.]

Two lessons from this script:

1) How a Script Can Hinge on the Right Casting. Even with a good script, Dolly Parton added that "extra" vibrancy.  So if you can get Dolly Parton, get Dolly Parton.

2) Why Do We Laugh at Farce?  Let's start with the definition: 
Farce (n.) = A light, humorous play in which the plot depends upon a skillfully exploited situation rather than upon the development of character. (my emphasis)
This is a new idea to me that farce is more about the situation than the character.

This script had several great examples, including the scene below.

Prior to this scece, Violet has accidentally put rat poison in the boss' coffee.
--> The boss hit his head, became unconscious, and spilt the coffee.
--> He is rushed to the E.R., woke up, and walked out.
--> Meanwhile, another unconscious man is wheeled in.
--> The police are waiting to hear about man #2.

Watch how we laugh the misunderstanding in the situation:

ex.  "INT. EMERGENCY WARD - NIGHT

...A Medic that brought in the man on the gurney exits the emergency room. The Detective stops him for a moment.

DETECTIVE: The guy they just brought in on the gurney; how is he?
MEDIC #1: Not so good.
DETECTIVE: When can I speak to the Doctor?
MEDIC #1: He knows you're here. [This line signals to Violet that "everyone knows what she did."  The reality is that no one does yet.]

The Medic walks on down the hall.

VIOLET: Oh, my God. They found out about it already.
JUDY: Don't panic. Don't panic.

The Doctor comes out and the Detective speaks to him.

DETECTIVE: How is he, Doc?
DOCTOR: He's dead.

Violet receives the news with a shock. Doralee and Judy are equally horrified.

VIOLET: Oh, my God. [She thinks the boss is dead, but ironically he's not.]
DETECTIVE: Can you tell what caused it?
DOCTOR: Not without an autopsy, but I'm fairly certain it was some kind of poison.
VIOLET: Ohhh... [She thinks she's to blame, but she's not.]

Violet feels suddenly faint and Judy and Doralee rush to help her. The Doctor leads the Detective and the Policeman into his office down the hall while Judy and Doralee help a distraught Violet to a seat in the waiting room."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Farce is about the situation more than the character development.

9 to 5 (1980)(final draft, 12/12/79)
by Colin Higgins
Story by Patricia Resnick

Monday, August 13, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: Pelican Brief (1993) - A Good Example of Suspense

[Quick Summary: After two Supreme Court justices are murdered, a Tulane Law School student proposes a possible conspiracy, and ends up running for her life.]

I'm not sure that I liked this script (or maybe it was the story?)

However, I did like the following suspense scene where Darby is on the run.

She has arranged to meet with Verheek, someone she has never met before. 

She has no idea, but we know that this guy is an imposter.

ex. "EXT. BOARDWALK - DAY

The boardwalk is crowded; a line has formed beside the Bayou Queen, a paddle wheeler. They stop at the end of the line.

HE: Are we getting on this boat?

DARBY: Yes. I've got a car a mile upriver at a park where we'll stop in thirty minutes.

The line is moving now.

CLOSE SHOT - HIM

CAMERA follows his hand as he touches the trouse pocket that contains the gun. He reaches into the pocket and pulls out a handkerchief.

CAMERA pans up with him as he brings it to his nose. There is a tiny flash of metal against the base of his skull just below the red baseball cap.

CLOSE SHOT DARBY'S HAND HOLDING HIS AS HIS HAND FALLS AWAY FROM HERS.

CLOSE SHOT DARBY as she whirls around.

DARBY'S P.O.V. of HIM falling to the ground.

CLOSE SHOT OF WHITE HANDKERCHIEF still clutched in his hand as it hits the ground. It turns bloos red.

VERY CLOSE SHOT - DARBY'S EYES AND MOUTH FILLING THE SCREEN WITH HER SCREAM...She whirls around in horror.

CAMERA whirls around to her P.O.V.

A man is running away. He disappears in a crowd.

WOMAN (V.O.): He's got a gun.

CAMERA whirls back again, following the sound of the woman's voice. SHe is standing next to Darby.

CAMERA slams down to her P.O.V.

The man she thinks is Verheek is on all fours with a small pistol in his right hand. Blood streams from his chin and puddles under his face. He lunges to the edge of the boardwalk. The gun drops into the water. He collapses on his stomach with his head hanging over and dripping into the river."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I think it's her reaction shots that makes the shock resonate so strongly with us.

Pelican Brief (1993)(1st draft, 2/10/93)
by Alan J. Pakula
Adapted from the novel by John Grisham

Monday, August 6, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: St. Elmo's Fire (1985) - The Comedic "3 Beats"

[Quick Summary: Three months out of college, seven college friends enter their Freshman Year of Life with all its expectations, secrets, and messiness.]

MY TWO CENTS:

1) Would I buy this script today? YES, in a heart beat.

Why? 
- It's a witty, fun, sharp, timeless drama + comedy.
- It's rare to have so much great comedy in a drama.
- It is a true ensemble cast for 7 young actors, with great arcs and conflict.
- It's cheap (no CGI, car chases, etc.)

2) The Comedic "3 Beats." I was impressed by the number of "3 beats" in this script.*

Usually, the 3 beats are close together:

ex. "INT. GEORGETOWN MEDICAL CENTER - AUGUST NIGHT

...Wendy is looking over Jules' Date who hovers in the distance.

WENDY: Is that your date? [BEAT 1]

The naked man wanders past them. [BEAT 2]

JULES: No that's my date! [BEAT 3]

As usual, Jules has managed to make Wendy laugh, just as the Cops approach her."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Sometimes, the 3 beats were looser and further apart:

ex. "INT. LADIES ROOM

Jules is applying eyeshadow to Wendy's bruised eye.

WENDY: He got drunk cause he lost his job. [Set the argument.]
JULES: Again? You didn't give him any money did you...?
WENDY: A little.
JULES: I thought you were going to take definite steps to change everything in your life that is not working. [BEAT 1]
WENDY: That doesn't leave much left. [BEAT 2]
JULES: Wendy this is all too destructive.
WENDY: Life in the fat lane. [BEAT 3]
JULES: You're not fat.
WENDY: I am fat. And no diet works. The only way to loose [sic] weight is by amputation. [BEAT 1]
JULES: You have to amputate Billy the Kid. [BEAT 2]
WENDY: I can't. [BEAT 3] [BEAT 1]
JULES: I don't get it. [BEAT 2]
WENDY: Me either." [BEAT 3]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I think these "3 beat" comedy bits allowed this drama to skewer a little deeper, a little closer to the bone, than straight drama alone could.

St. Elmo's Fire (1985)(3/13/84 draft)
by Joel Schumacher and Carl Kurlander

* "3 beats"= The rhythm and/or repetition of "three" things.  I'm not sure who discovered it, but it always seems to make people laugh.

Monday, July 30, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: 12 Angry Men (1957) - The Invisible Structure of a Talky Script

[Quick Summary:  Twelve NYC jurors debate the fate of a young man accused of killing his father.]

Q: Why is dialogue so tricky, especially for new writers?
A: I think it's because they try to make dialogue carry things that it is not meant to.

Q:  "Telling" the plot instead of "showing," right?
A: Yes. 

Q: What about 12 Angry Men?  It's a very, very, very talky script where the jurors "tell" the defendant's story.
A: Yes, but that is not what the story is really about.

Q: What do you mean? 
A: It's really about the jurors' beliefs and attitudes.   It's not about what they say, but how they say it, when they say it, and how they persuade or defend.

Q: How did the writer do that? 
A:  Structure!  Here, the juxtaposition of dialogue revealed more than the words did.

Notice in the scene below:
  • #8 (our hero) argues with juror #6 --> It reveals #6's faulty reasoning
  •  #4's comment reveals his beliefs --> #8 identifies an opponent

ex. "#6: I don't know. I started to be convinced, uh...you know, very early in the case. Well, I was looking for the motive. That's very important. If there's no motive where's the case? So anyway, that testimony from those people across the hall from the kid's apartment, that was very powerful. Didn't they say something about an argument between the father and the boy around seven o'clock that night? I mean, I can be wrong.

MEDIUM SHOT   #11, #10, #9, #8  FROM ACROSS THE TABLE

#11: It was eight o'clock. Not seven.

#8: That's right. Eight o'clock. They heard an argument, but they coulen't hear what it was about. Then they heard the father hit the boy twice, and finally they saw the boy walk angrily out of the hosue. What does that prove?

CLOSE UP #6

Any time he is working on his own ideas he feels himself on unsteady ground, and is ready to back down. He does so now.

#6: Well it doesn't exactly prove anything. It's just part of the picture. I didn't say it proved anything.

MEDIUM SHOT  CENTERING ON #'S 6, 7, 8

#8: You said it revealed a motive for this killing. The prosecuting attorney said the same thing. Well I don't think it's a very strong motive. This boy has been hit so many times in his life that violence is practically a normal state of affairs for him. I can't see two slaps in the face provoking him into committing murder. [#8 discredits #6]

MEDIUM SHOT   #4

#4 (Quietly): It may have been two too many. Everyone has a breaking point.

CLOSE UP   #8

Looking across at #4, and realizing instantly that this will probably be his most powerful adversary.  #4 is the man of logic, and a man without emotional attachment to this case." [#8 recognizes opponent]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  Juxtaposing Character A's dialogue against Character B's can reveal more unspoken things (ex. strategy, attitudes) than their words could.

12 Angry Men (1957) 
Story and screenplay by Reginald Rose

Monday, July 23, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: Reds (1981) - Characters Matter to Us; Politics as Backdrop

[Quick Summary: This is the very complicated, push-pull marriage of communist activist Jack Reed and writer Louise Bryant (late 1910s).]
 
Once again, film critic Roger Ebert nails my feelings for this script:
The whole movie finally comes down to the fact that the characters matter to us. Beatty may be fascinated by the ins and outs of American left-wing politics sixty years ago, but he is not so idealistic as to believe an American mass audience can be inspired to care as deeply. So he gives us people. (underline mine)
Another story about politics? NO THANK YOU.  But this story was different.

Why? Because "[t]he heart of the film is in the relationship between Reed and Bryant," which spits and crackles.*

I worried about Louise, who was no push over, yet wasn't taken seriously as a writer. 

I was exasperated with Jack, a political animal who 'never wants to be where he's at.'

Could these two lovers make it work? Or was it doomed?

In the scene below, notice how politics is only in the backdrop.

The real conflict is a universal one: How do Louise and Jack take care of (or don't take care of) one another against the demands of career and politics?

ex. "INT. CROTON HOUSE - THE KITCHEN - JACK

...LOUISE'S VOICE: Jack?

JACK: Stay out! Stay out! Stay out!

INSIDE THE DINING ROOM Louise sits at the table on which is a birthday cake. She counts the candles suspiciously.

INSIDE THE KITCHEN the turkey, now wrapped in a towel, lies on the sink as Jack drops a mound of diced vegetables into a pan of boiling grease. The grease erupts with a gust of smoke and a loud sizzling sound.

INSIDE THE DINING ROOM, Louise sits gripping the arms of her chair, watching the smoke flow out from around the kitchen door and calls brightly.

LOUISE: I had an offer today to lecture in St. Louis and San Francisco, but I turned them down. I don't want to go any further away from here than New Jersey. (there is no answer) Jack?

JACK: Stay out! Stay out!

...He returns with an entire platter of little burnt things and puts them in front of Louise.

JACK: I put a turkey in the oven so we have a while.

LOUISE: Mmmm.

JACK: Eat up, there're plenty more where those came from.

The phone rings. He sits looking at it, then walks over and picks it up.

JACK: Hello (he listens) Tonight? Oh, shit. (he listens) Hold on. (to Louise, his hand over the phone) The organizer they found in Rochester has to go back tonight and I have to meet with him. I'll only be an hour. I'm sorry, honey.

LOUISE: No, no. If you think it's important.

JACK (into phone): I'll be there in twenty minutes. (he hangs up)

Louise slumps as he prepares to leave."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Characters matter.

"A film about the politics in the Bolshevik Revolution? I'll pass."  vs. "A film about mismatched lovers against the backdrop of the Bolshevik Revolution? Yes, please."

Reds (1981) 
by Warren Beatty and Trevor Griffiths

*Thanks to uncredited work by writer/director Elaine May.

Monday, July 16, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: Predator (1987) - Protecting Your Story; One Good Change

[Quick Summary:  After 3 presidential cabinet members go missing in the jungle, a military team goes to rescue them, only to be hunted by a mysterious predator.] 

TWO THOUGHTS:

1) PROTECTING YOUR STORY.  All screenwriters accept that a script will change because of budget, location, etc.

But how do you protect your STORY from destructive changes? Solid story structure.

ex. The essential structure of Predator does not change much, despite 8+ drafts. All the important beats from the early version (PDF1) are present in the final (PDF2).

2) ONE SMART CHANGE. In the early draft, the whole team never really see the Hunter.  In production polish (PDF2), they do spot him at the beginning of Act 3. 

This was a very smart change because: a) The protagonists know their enemy is not human; b) The antagonist, who was nearly invisible, now has even higher stakes. 

ex. "EXT. THE TEAM - DAY

The limb CRASHES down from the trees, Schaefer, Dillon, Billy and Mac diving for safety. But Ramirez, following the Hunter's leap, SEES too late the pendular movement of the severed limb and is struck a THUDDING blow in the ribs, which lifts him off his feet, hurling him backwards like a rag doll, his shirt torn open, exposing a BLOODY WOUND.

An [sic] Anna runs to Ramiez's side the others, still stunned, look upward, frozen in shock SEEING: THE HUNTER, clinging to a side of a tree, flushed bright crimson.

Dillis [sic] is dumbfounded, like the others, rooted to the ground staring upward.

DILLON: What in God's name...?

The Hunter utters an unearthly SNARL and HISS from his open mouth as an instant later his camouflage resumes and he vanishes from sight...a rapid, furtive movement through the trees."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  Good structure is not 100% guarantee that your story will survive production, but at least you will have a fighting chance. 

"You can make a bad film from a good script, but you can't make a good film from a bad script." - Anonymous

Predator (1987)(early draft, 7/17/85; final draft, 4/7/86)
by James Thomas and John Thomas

Monday, July 9, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Stunt Man (1980) - Strengthening a Good Turning Point/Reveal

[Quick Summary: After he barely escapes arresting officers, Cameron stumbles onto a film shoot, where he is hired to be a stunt man.]

I got a headache after reading this script.  I felt frustrated and manipulated.

Roger Ebert explains why much better than I can:
Railsback begins to suspect that O'Toole really wants to kill him, either in the service of cinematic art or for some sadistic private purpose. And that is essentially the situation the film repeats, over and over, scene after scene, all the way to the end.
That's what bothered me. I caught on right away (it didn't take much deep thought) that the method of the movie was to deceive and mislead me. Because the ability to do that is completely within the director's ability-because I can know only what he chooses to tell me-I found the movie's approach more frustrating than challenging.
Did I like anything? I did like the turning point/reveal below. 

In this scene, Cameron (protagonist) and Henry (assistant cameraman) talk about Eli Cross (director). Cameron thinks only Eli knows Cameron's secret.

ex. "INT. HOTEL BAR - LATE NIGHT

...CAMERON: Ya quittin'?

HENRY: Fuckin' A. Gettin' out tonight. But not without splittin' a Schlitz with the one guy, 'cept me, who wouldn't take shit from that screwball.

As the BARTENDER is taking away the empties, Henry puts his finger down on a DIME.

HENRY (cont'd): Change is for you, except that. That's a very special dime. (holds it up for Cameron to see) Know what this is? Ask me!

CAMERON: It's a dime...am I close?

HENRY: It's Eli Cross' ass. People think 'cause you're easygoin' they can walk all over you. Bull-shit...I'm blowin' the whistle with this dime in that phone...killin' a man and hiding it from the police...are you kiddin'...? Who is he think he is? [Oh no! Does Henry know Cameron's secret too?]

Cameron pales, knowing that drunken Henry's desire for revenge can expose him to the police. He grabs the dime from Henry's fingers and drops it into a PEANUT VENDING MACHINE. [Cameron jumps to the logical conclusion, i.e., He thinks it's me.]

HENRY: What the hell you doin'?

They have reached the HOTEL DOORWAY. By now, Henry is convinced Cameron means business. He stops.

HENRY: Do whatever you wanna do, but I better do it with ya! You'll need help 'cause that goddamn looney is dangerous.

CAMERON (blustering): Not to me, he ain't. I'm going to the cops. You gotta earn your living in pictures, but I don't give a shit. He can't hurt me.

HENRY: Don't be too sure. Damned psycho nearly strangled me! Don't believe me? Wanna see marks...?(tears open shirt collar to show bruises) ...Lucky to be alive!

CAMERON (confused): Henry, what are you talking about? I watched that whole thing today, he didn't even touch you.

HENRY: Not today. When Burt went into the water. (Cameron is wide-eyed) [Wow! Henry was talking about Eli's secret, not Cameron's secret. This is a great reveal and reversal of our expectations.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: It really helps that Cameron jumps to the most logical conclusion first ("Henry thinks I'm the killer").

It makes the reveal stronger (Henry is talking about Eli) and the reverses our expectations.

The Stunt Man (1980)(final shooting draft)
by Lawrence B. Marcus
Adaptation by Richard Rush
Based on the novel by Paul Brodeur

Monday, July 2, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Thin Red Line (1998) - A Malick Script is Different Than Others

[Quick Summary: American soldiers arrive in Guadacanal to fight the Japanese.]

>>FYI: CONFUSING SCRIPT AHEAD.  FOR ADVANCED WRITERS ONLY.<<

MY THREE THOUGHTS:

1) THE SCRIPT. A screenplay is often described as a blueprint, a map, or a plan.

Its purpose is to outline what the final product, i.e., the film, will look like.

On the range from 10 (set-in-stone; very planned) to 1 (loose recipe; least planned), this Terrence Malick script is around a -3 (a sketch; will be discarded).

This will not be surprising if you know Malick's work. 

However, I, who knew very little, found it irritating.

2) THE PROCESS. Malick has been described as a "screen poet," "intuitive," "spontaneous," a "truth seeker" rather than a film director.

I think he is more interested in process than the end product:
And we sat there for five or ten minutes while he got different angles of this bird flying through the sky, you know, but that’s how, it was like the script didn’t really matter to him, the story didn’t matter, although we shot the script and we shot the story, the movie didn’t really resemble the script by the time he finished editing it. ... [I]t seemed like he was gathering moments, just taking them with him and then he’d get back and say “Let’s turn this into a movie.” —Actor John C. Reilly on The Thin Red Line
3) THE SCRIPT AGAIN. So what did I learn?

First, Malick scripts are an entirely separate category in my mind.  I'm not surprised that they might be discarded during shooting. But the story too? That unsettles me.

Second, the scenes from this script that stuck with me were the simple ones.

In the scene below, Tella is a soldier shot in the chest and gut.:

ex. "Slipping one arm under the Italian's knees and the other under his shoulders, he lifts.

TELLA: Aaa-eeeee! Put me down! Put me down! You're breaking me in two! Put me down! You'll kill me! You son of a bitch! You fucker! You bastard! I told you to leave me alone! You shiteater! Stay away from me!

Turning his head away and closing his eyes, he begins his desperate, wailing, piercing scream agin. Five yards above them on the slope a line of machine gun BULLETS slowly stitches itself across from left to right. With sudden, desperate inspiration, Welsh leaps across the prostrate Tella and begins rummaging in the dead Medic's belt pouches.

WELSH: Here! Tella! Take these! Tella!

Tella stops screaming and opens his eyes. Welsh tosses him two morphine syrettes he has found and begins to attack another pouch.

TELLA: More! More! Gimme more! More!

Welsh tosses him a double handful he has found in the other pouch and then turns to run. But something stops him. Crouched like a sprinter at the gun, he turns his head and looks at Tella one more time. Tella, already unscrewing the cap from one of the syrettes, is looking at him feelingly, his eyes wide and white.

TELLA: Goodbye! Goodbye, Welsh!

WELSH: Goodbye, kid.

It is all he can think of to say. For that matter, it is all he has time to say, because he is already off and running. Bullets WHIR by his head. He runs and runs and then he falls headlong over the little crest and just lies there, half-dead from exhaustion.

STEIN: Sergeant, I saw the whole thing through the glasses. I want you to know I'm mentioning you in Orders tomorrow. I'm recommending you for the Silver Star. I can only say --

WELSH: Captain, if you say one word to thank me, I will punch you square in the nose. Right here. If you ever so much as mention me in your fucking Orders, I will resign my rating two minutes after, and leave you to run this pore, busted-up outfit by yourself. If I go to jail. So fucking help me."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: In the Malick process, the script's typical purpose is thrown out the window.  This is both freeing, but also confusing, if you don't know what is going on.

The Thin Red Line (1998)(2nd draft, 10/3/96)
by Terrence Malick
Based on the novel by James Jones

Monday, June 25, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: After Hours (1985) - Satire Needs Good Pacing & Tension

[Quick Summary: After meeting an intriguing woman at 2 a.m., Paul, a bored computer processor, has a bad, bad, bad, horrible night.]

This is one weird script. Ebert calls this the "tensest comedy" and a satire.

I get "comedy" but "satire"?

In this story, Paul meets a stranger, Marcy, at 2 a.m. in New York.  She invites him to her friend's apartment, and he encounters stranger and stranger situations.

Oh, I see! They're trying to satirize is what it feels like to live in a big city, i.e., the dealing with the unexpected. 

But how to pull it off?

a) Satire = Exaggeration. The writer gave Paul merciless, unrelenting waves of the unexpected.  This is funny for some reason.

b) Pacing & Tension. However, it was crucial to have strong pacing and tension to harness the waves.  Otherwise, it's just random scenes leading nowhere.

In the scene below, note:
- The pacing races along until Kiki's reveal, i.e., the a-ha! moment.
- Paul is quite tense &/or relieved, based on wrong facts.
- The overall effect is feeling discombobulated.  These people are not real, are they?
- It's a funny scene...Is it because of the situation? Or how people respond to tension?

ex. "EXT. SPRING ST.

PAUL begins heading int he direction of the bar, when, crossing a street, he sees, to the south, two FIGURES, one carrying a  TV set and the other that life-size sculpture from KIKI'S loft. The FIGURES stop behind a van parked on the street. PAUL runs toward them.

PAUL: Hey! [This scene establishes Paul's expectations: Robbers stole an acquaintance's sculpture. Paul is offended.]

Hearing this, both FIGURES drop what they're carrying. They quickly climb into the van and drive off, speeding by PAUL who soon reaches the TV, the tube broken, and the sculpture.  He straddles the latter behind him, piggy-back style, and carries it toward Broome St. [Paul has rescued Kiki's stolen property & is relieved.]
                                                                                     CUT TO:

EXT. LOFT BUILDING.

PAUL presses KIKI's buzzer, then looks up at the fourth floor window. KIKI pops her head out, but she is gagged and, apparently, bound. Her head disappears, then pops out again with her keys dangling from her mouth. She lets them fall. [Paul sees Kiki is bound & assumes it was before the robbery. He is tense again.]

INT. LOFT BUILDING.

PAUL rounds a landing with difficulty, the statue an awkward burden. [This is ironic that he wouldn't put down the statue.  This is unexpected & funny.]
                                                                                       CUT TO:

INT. KIKI'S LOFT.

PAUL enters. KIKI is huddled in a corner, tied up. PAUL moves over to her and removes her gag.

KIKI: Paul...

PAUL: Kiki...

KIKI: It's raining!

PAUL: No, it isn't.

PAUL begins to untie her.

PAUL: How'd they get in?

KIKI: How'd who get in?

PAUL: The burglars.

KIKI: What burglars?

PAUL stops untying her, confused. [Pacing: It's been fast, fast, now slows.]

PAUL: The guys I just saw with your sculpture...and a TV set. [Paul states his beliefs.]

KIKI slowly breaks into a grin.

KIKI: Neil and Pepe?..I just sold them my television. What are you doing with my sculpture? [Reveal: Kiki's property was not stolen. Paul's beliefs are upended.]

At that moment HORST enters, dressed in black leather clothing, with spurred boots and spiked bracelets. [Pacing: A new character is introduced, adding to the mayhem.]

KIKI (to PAUL): I'm sorry, but you can't stay the night. Not after the way you walked out on Marcy. Regular ladykiller, aren't ya? [Twist: Kiki is acting as if being bound is normal. This is odd to a normal guy like Paul.]

HORST: This the guy? (to PAUL) I'm Horst. [Twist: Horst is acting as if Kiki being bound is normal too. This is doubly odd for Paul.]

PAUL: Paul. Could you...? (indicates sculpture still on his back)" [Comedy: It's funny that Paul is carrying the sculpture all this time.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  It took me awhile to see the satire.  I am impressed that as weird as it was to read, it was simply grounded, i.e., This guy just wants to go home.

After Hours (1985)(4th draft, dated 6/6/84)
by Joseph Minion

Monday, June 18, 2018

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Wind and The Lion (1975) - How To Read a Script With Distracting Formatting

[Quick Summary: When an American woman and her children are kidnapped by the last of the Barbary pirates, Teddy Roosevelt sends a rescue team in a political move.]

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.

You've skimmed down to the example below and said, "How does a writer get away with that? Scripts today don't look like that! Why should I read that?"

First, today's script was written by the director.

Second, it was probably the best he could do to convey what he was trying to convey.

Third, reading challenging scripts make you a better writer. 

Fourth, ugly scripts are bought as often as pretty ones.*

HOW TO READ A SCRIPT WITH DISTRACTING/UGLY FORMATTING:

- Ignore the formatting as best you can.
- Ignore the denseness of the black print.
- Focus on what the writer is trying to convey (mood, emotion, etc.)  Did it work?
- Focus on why the scene worked as it was intended, despite the formatting.

In the example below, notice:
- Eden is being seduced by the desert. 
- Each sentence is part of the puzzle, a layer upon layer.
- The arc of the scene is from surprise --> enjoying --> startled at the seduction.
- Did you see her surprise coming?

ex. "THE PALACE OF RAISULI - NIGHT

...Eden put her foot into the water with great trepidation. She looked around again to see if anyone was watching and once more took in the extreme aloneness of the place. It was timeless, as if it had been waiting forever for her to be here now. She stepped back out and loosened her silk Berber robes at the belt, let them cascade down her shoulders and fall silently at her feet. She now stood naked, the moonlight reflecting softly on her skin and the breeze gently cooling her. Above her the vast expanse of the moon and stars, around her the cliffs and flower drenched walls. The sound of the Berber men singing carried from distant tents on the sweet smelling dry wind. She slipped smoothly into the warm scented waters and watched the reflection of the moon sparkle on their surface. The world seemed to ripple like the surface of the water starting from deep within her and pulsating out in ever widening circles over everything she had ever known or been. She gave herself up to the desert, the cliffs and the sound of the Berbers singing. And a part of her soul slipped easily away on the wind and brushed over the mountains. And she knew it was gone. She sat up.

EDEN: I can't let this go on. I must escape, God willing. I must escape!"

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Be bold on the page. Don't limit yourself, even if you need paragraphs to get your ideas across.

The Wind and the Lion (1975)(undated draft)
Written & directed by John Milius

*Scripts are not rejected solely based on formatting, contrary to popular myth.  The determining factor is whether the execution of ideas is effective (is it moving? inspiring? scary? romantic?) 
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"'