Tuesday, December 4, 2012

TODAY'S NUGGET: Alien (1979) - One Secret of a Great Action Script

[Quick Summary: The crew of a commercial starship investigates an unknown planet, unaware that a terrifying creature has hijacked on to their ship.]

In the beginning, there was Alien.*

I read this script in its entirety for the first time, and I admit I was discombobulated.

This script is REALLY spare:

- The crew has little back story.
- There is no discussion home or personal life on Earth.
- There is no talk about future hopes and dreams.

The usual tricks to lure the reader are gone, i.e., no lush descriptions or painful character motivations.

So what is left for a compelling story? ONLY the present.

The script is stripped down to the NOW, i.e., getting rid of the monster on the ship ASAP.

The mood is survival. The tone is urgent. It's all-action-all-the-time (as all Hill scripts are).

A good action story is about characters making interesting decisions NOW.

ex. Do we let infected crew back on board?
ex. How to avoid the creature's acid?

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Don't get bogged down in justifying or explaining.  Strip down to the present.

Alien (1979)
by Walter Hill & David Giler
Based on screenplay by Dan O'Bannon
Story by Dan O'Bannon & Ronald Shusett

*For those who don't know, there are 4-5 films built on this one:
- Aliens
- Aliens 3
- Alien Resurrection;
- Alien vs. Predator (arguably)

Go here for the development history and scripts.

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