Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: #39 WGA Script of All Time - The Sting (1973)

[Quick Summary: A young con teams up with a shady master con to exact revenge on a criminal banker.]

The Sting is well known for the big twist/reveal at the end. (I won't spoil it.)

The key is that it plays fair with the audience:

- No new character/tool/god that appears from nowhere to solve the plot (deus ex machina).
- No withholding clues.
- It lets the audience participate and decide for themselves who to believe or doubt.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Lay all the clues out there, but let the audience put 2 + 2 together.

The Sting (1973)
by David S. Ward

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: #40 WGA Script of All Time - When Harry Met Sally (1989)

[Quick Summary: A man & woman meet after college, become good friends over a decade, but are afraid to fall in love.]

In honor of Valentine's Day, I present dialogue that hints at feelings of love.


Sally and Marie go about getting the coffee ready.

SALLY: Emily's a little young for Harry, don't you think?
MARIE: She's young, but look at what she's done.
SALLY: What has she done? She makes desserts.


JESS: He's a good guy. You should talk to him, get to know him.
HARRY: He's too tall to talk to.


MARIE: Its' not just desserts. She makes 3500 chocolate mousse pies a week.

JESS: He took us to a Mets game last week, it was great.
Harry: You all went to a Mets game?
JESS: Yeah, it was a last minute thing.
HARRY: But Sally hates baseball.


SALLY: Harry doesn't even like sweets.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: We know Harry & Sally like each other because:

1) They disparage the other person's date; &
2) They're disturbed when they find that that date is more impressive than expected.

And no on-the-nose dialogue anywhere.

When Harry Met Sally (1989)
by Nora Ephron

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: #41 WGA Script of All Time - Goodfellas (1990)

[Quick Summary: As Henry Hill rises in the ranks of the mafia, he is entangled in vices which are his downfall.]

Voice overs are like dynamite. 

If used improperly, they're like grenades that go off at the wrong time. 

But if the writer knows what he/she is doing, they're like fireworks that illuminate and surprise.

This script is in the latter category.  It's also the first script I've seen where there are not one, but TWO voice overs, i.e., Henry and Karen Hill.

So why does Karen's second voice over work here? 

1 - This is Henry's story and told from Henry's point of view. 

2 - Though Karen's voice over is told from her point of view, she tells us more about HENRY'S life. 

She fills in the blanks about HENRY'S behind-the-scenes problems. She echoes how the audience feels about HENRY.  She reflects HENRY'S point of view.

ex. KAREN (V.O.): "He was an exciting guy. He was really nice. He introduced me to everybody. Everybody wanted to be nice to him. And he knew how to handle it."

ex. KAREN (V.O.): "We weren't married to nine-to-five guys..."

ex. KAREN (V.O.): "None of it seemed like crimes. It was more that Henry was enterprising."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Yes, two voice overs are possible... IF it the 2nd re-emphasizes/amplifies/reflects the main point of view.

Gotta keep the unity-of-story thing intact, you know.

Goodfellas (1990)
by Nicholas Pileggi & Martin Scorsese

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: #42 WGA Script of All Time - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

[Quick Summary: Archeologist Indiana Jones must track down the lost Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.]

Yeah, yeah, yeah, don't talk to me about bad B stories/subplots.

I've seen bunches of them that:

- Wander off to nowhere
- Compete with the A story for the biggest twist
- Strangle the A story in complications

I define the B story as sub-story that supports, reflects, or pushes the A story forward.

So let's check out how Kasdan setup a good B story between Indy and Marion:

ex. "[Marion] is almost on him when Indy looks up smiling. Marion stops, stares, shocked.

INDY: Hello Marion.

She hits him with a solid right to the jaw, knocking him off the barstool on the floor. He rubs his jaw and smiles up at her.

INDY: Nice to see you, too.
MARION: Get up and get out.
INDY: Take it easy. I'm looking for your father.
MARION (bitterly): Well you're two years too late."

What do we know from this 1st meeting?
- Indy left Marion on bad terms, but still likes her. [The B story complicates his journey.]
- He needs her cooperation to find the ark. [The B story pushes the A story forward to his goal.]
- Marion is a useful partner. [She has a stake in his success, which keeps us focused on the goal.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: The tension between Marion and Indy (subplot) increases the fun of the hunt (main plot).

That's really all you want in a subplot.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
by Lawrence Kasdan
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