Monday, October 28, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: In Bruges (2008) - Economy

[Quick Summary: After a hit goes awry, two Irish hitmen hide out in Bruges.]

What the hell does "economy in writing" MEAN?

I know what it looks like.

But no one can tell me how to do it...

...except to read many, many scripts.

I've figured out one thing:
ECONOMY = Every single scene is stuffed to the gills
                + Easy to read.  

For example, a scene from today's script:

"INT. BRUGES POLICE STATION - NIGHT

CHLOE waiting, DESK CONSTABLE doodling. She stands, excited as RAY is released.

RAY: I'll get the money back to you as soon as I get through to my friend...
CHLOE: It's not a problem, Raymond.
RAY: And I'll get all your acid and ecstasy back to you too...

The DESK CONSTABLE looks up.

CHLOE (in Flemish, subtitled): English humour!

She quickly leads him out."

This is a very short scene, but it's chock full of progress:

- Ray finally makes a promise about the future ("I'll get the money back to you...")
- His character remains consistent (he still shows poor judgment by taking the acid).
- If you read between the lines, he has bonded with Chloe.
- She's willing to cover for him. They're a team now.
- Something good has happened to Ray. There's hope.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Economy is packing scenes full AND they are easy to read.

The reader gets the literal meaning, as well as the inferred meaning (also know as "allowing the audience to put 2+2 together.")

In Bruges (2008)
by Martin McDonagh

Monday, October 21, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Klute (1971) - "It Can't Be Just About Sex"

[Quick Summary: A small town detective has only one clue to find a missing friend: a city prostitute.]  

Most scripts today have too much sex and/or badly written sex in them.

The result is gratuitous sex scenes that feel hollow...

...or (even worse) bore the reader.

Why is this so?

Many scripts fail to heed the rule: 
"...[I]t can't be just about sex.  If there's more sex going on, something else must be going on as well. So use the act to illustrate the action." (p. 188) 

So before writing a sex scene, I recommend:

1.  Closely reading Billy Mernit's chapter "Being Sexy.

The rules for a rom-com couples apply to all couples.

2.  Reading (and re-reading) Klute, one of the sexiest thrillers I've read.

This script has less nudity than today's scripts, but it's sexier.

Klute is a detective who is trying to find his missing friend. 

Bree is a jaded prostitute who last saw the friend.  She uses sex as a defense [the 'something else going on.']

When Bree finally beds Klute, it's a haunting, soulless act.

The sexual dynamic has a purpose:
-  Klute reveals a tender side to Bree.
-  Bree reveals an emptiness to Klute.
-  It also sets their relationship up for the rest of the film.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: For couples to work, it's can't be just about sex.

Klute (1971)
by Andy Lewis and David E. Lewis

Monday, October 14, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Pride & Prejudice (2005) - Getting Out of a Riposte

[Quick Summary: Lizzie Bennet is pride; Mr. Darcy is prejudice. They fall in love.]

I love verbal riposte between characters.

The thrust (Beat #1) and parry (Beat #2) are fun to write.

But what about Beat #3?  (It's my downfall.)

How do you get out of the riposte, and land on a good Beat #3?

Let's take a look at several examples in this stellar script:

Ex. MRS. BENNET: How can you tease me, Mr. Bennet? Have you no compassion for my poor nerves?
MR. BENNET: You mistake me, my dear. I have a high respect for them; they have been my constant companions these twenty years.
MRS. BENNET: Is he amiable? [She takes a different angle.

Ex. CHARLOTTE: That is his good friend, Mr. Darcy.
LIZZIE: He looks miserable, poor soul.
CHARLOTTE: Miserable he may be, but poor he most certainly is not.
LIZZIE: Tell me. [Her appetite increases for more info.]

- DARCY: I thought that poetry was the food of love.
LIZZIE: Of a fine, stout love it may. But if it is only a vague inclination, I am convinced that one poor sonnet will kill it stone dead.
DARCY: So what do you recommend, to encourage affection? [He throws out a dare.]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: To land Beat #3, try 
- Taking the conversation in a different direction.
- Baiting the character.
- Taking the fight to a more personal level.

Pride & Prejudice (2005)
by Deborah Moggach
Adapted from the novel by Jane Austen

Monday, October 7, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) - Episodic = Usually a Bad Idea

[Quick Summary: An examination of the private Sherlock Holmes.]

This film was meant to be two films with an intermission (3 hrs., 2 min.)*:

It's a long story because it's made up of a series of episodes**:

- Holmes investigates several unrelated cases. 
- Each case illuminates an unknown facet of Holmes.
- All these facets are combined in the last case.

Episodes are generally a no-no because they break up the narrative flow, i.e., too much stop-start-stop-start.

The rule applies here.

I lost track of the overall story after the second episode.

I got bored waiting for the last (and best) episode. 

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Avoid episodes at all costs.

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)
by Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond

* The final film was severely truncated (1 hr., 53 min.)
** Episodes = Separate, tenuously related stories
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