Wednesday, November 3, 2010

TODAY'S NUGGET: #30 WGA Script of All Time - Unforgiven (1992)

[Quick Summary: Delilah is a prostitute whose face is butchered by bad Mike in 1880s Old West.  Her prostitute friends offer $1k to whomever kills Mike. 

The Kid finds three fingered, bad ass assassin Bill Munny & asks him to partner up for the job. Problem is, Munny found a good woman (who died), & has gone straight, but needs the money to raise his kids.]

I did not want to read Unforgiven.

It's raw & often dark, but I was glad I did. 

This is a rare script b/c: 1) the stakes never stop rising, & 2) it's still a very lean script. 

A newbie writer will try to "increase the stakes" by action, action, & more action.

Action ALONE is wrong, wrong, wrong.  There must be MEANING to the action.

I define "increasing the stakes" as:
A) we must SEE the jeopardy or obstacle; &
B) we must SEE how it makes it tougher for the protagonist to reach his goal. 

In Unforgiven, this happens in every scene, even the slow ones.


- We see Munny practice shooting a tin can at 15 yards.  He misses again & again. The stakes rise b/c how is he ever going to shoot Mike?

- Ned tricks The Kid into confessing he's practically blind beyond 50 yards.  The stakes rise b/c how can Munny trust a half-blind gunshooter to cover his back?

- Munny lets Ned, the only man he trusts, leave town.  The stakes rise b/c we wonder if Munny will come out of this alive to see his kids.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The key to increasing the stakes is to run your protagonist up an increasingly shakier & shakier tree so that we never know how he'll ever get back down.

Unforgiven (1992)
by David Webb Peoples

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