Tuesday, September 18, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) - Dialogue is 90% Setup

[Quick Summary: A slice of life from the point of view of a group of American teens.]

I liked this script, but it's not my favorite Cameron Crowe script.

Since I don't know why yet, I'll leave you with a favorite scene.

This one features Brad, the high school senior who works after school at a fast food chain, and his boss.

Dennis heads back to his office when he sees something in the trash bin.

DENNIS: Did you throw away those fries, Hamilton?
BRAD: They were left over from the last shift.
DENNIS: Those were perfectly good fries, Hamilton. (glares at Brad) Perfectly good.
BRAD: But they weren't mine.

Brad laughs, goes back to work."

I liked this scene because it shows us so much about Brad's internal life:

- He takes pride in his work.
- He is not afraid to challenge authority.
- He has a sense of humor.

Most people will only see the clever dialogue.

But if you're smart, you'll notice how the scene was constructed for maximum effect.

There's a careful combination of conflict (battle of authority), topic (french fries), and setting (at the deep fryer) that makes the dialogue work.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  Dialogue is 90% setup, 10% payoff.

Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Book and screenplay by Cameron Crowe

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