Monday, November 25, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Body Heat (1981) - I Didn't See the Twist Coming

[Quick Summary: After a lawyer falls for a smart, married blonde, their plot to kill her husband falls apart.]

I consider myself a master at anticipating twist(s).

It's a matter of pride that nothing escapes my eagle eye...

...except I DIDN'T see it coming in this script.

How did that happen?!

I won't reveal too much (the less you know, the better).

However, I will say that this script is really good because it doesn't try too hard to be clever, or fool the reader (as many new writers try to do).

Instead, it relies on a tale that's snags your emotions so much that you're not looking for any twist.

I was hooked as Racine fell for a girl, and ached in her absence.

I identified, invested, and rooted for this unlikely couple.

They were good together. They would defy the odds.

Then WHOMP! 

The twist arrived, unexpected, unwanted, full of backlash and back-peddling.  

I applaud the writer.  He fooled me, fair and square, and I left a satisfied reader.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I often pay too much attention to the 'twist' moment.

If I focus more on the setup, the twist will (ironically) be better. 

Body Heat (1981)
by Lawrence Kasdan

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - Three Character Things I Learned

[Quick Summary: While the Empire hunts the Rebels, Luke Skywalker trains to be a Jedi.]

I didn't want to read this script.

I balked. I balked again. And again.

What could it teach me? (After all, I grew up on the original Star Wars et al.)

Alas, I was wrong to judge before reading. 

Here are 3 things I learned:

1 -  The battle and escape from Hoth take a long time (approx. p. 60+). 

On the up side, it reminded me to take my time establishing the stakes for the characters.

2 - Yoda is revealed in Luke's dawned look (action), and NOT dialogue.

ex. "Ben is focused on the creature. They ignore Luke for the moment. The boy is bewildered, but over the next few exchanges it dawns on him that the little creature is YODA, the Jedi Master."

3 - This story is interesting because it focuses on how people relate to each other.

ex. Han and Leia are attracted to each other, but are awkward together.
ex. Vader gives Luke the join-or-die choice, but Luke chooses door #3.
ex.  Luke calls out for Leia...how does she hears him miles away?

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  I find this phrase vague and unhelpful: "It comes down to character." 

I do find this concrete and helpful: "Character is how people act, decide, and react."

Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
by Leigh Brackett & Larry Kasdan
From the novel by George Lucas

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Kingdom of Heaven (2005) - Beware When Writing on an Epic Scale

[Quick Summary: A French blacksmith takes his father's role as defender of Jerusalem during the Crusades.]

Do you ever wonder what a draft from a seasoned writer looks like?

Written for director Ridley Scott, no less?

I do. (Yes, I have weird thoughts.)

So I read this draft, and pretended I was its writer.

How would I re-write it?

The good news is that this is a sprawling epic.  It's got great structure, visuals and tone.

The bad news is that this is a sprawling epic.  Often, they are so large that they are prone to lose a personal feel.

ex. Here, I couldn't follow Balian's (protagonist) arc.

He goes to Jerusalem to erase his and his wife's sins (hers by suicide).

But when he finally gets to Calvary, he gets little absolution...and the issue disappears.

I felt cheated.  Balian is tormented for pages...and then it is no longer a problem?!

Don't give me more fireworks - I want to know the personal stuff. How did he resolve his guilt?!

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  When working on such a large scale, it's easy to overlook the small stuff.

Kingdom of Heaven - early draft (2005)
by William Monahan

Monday, November 4, 2013

TODAY'S NUGGET: Casino Royale (2006) - Advancing the Bond Girl

[Quick Summary: In this franchise reboot, an early Bond battles the villainous Le Chiffre in a high stakes poker game.]

I wish a "Bond girl" could be Bond's equal.

I don't see it happening soon, though.

[I think it's part of the franchise that her major role is to be the decoy or arm candy.  'Tis a shame.]

However, the writers of this reboot did add something new.

Here, Vesper is a Treasury representative and the decoy/arm candy, AND she also a deep emotional impact on Bond that we've not seen before.

Her role is important and changes him:

"ex. James pulls on the jacket: damn if she isn't right. We thought he looked good in his last tux, he looks amazing in this one. And he sees the difference, and is amused that she actually showed him something....

He doesn't notice Vesper pause in the open bathroom doorway, catching him in the act."

I think this script evolved the Bond girl forward at least a step or two.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Even with pre-set parameters for a Bond girl, it still is possible to deepen a character through relationships.

Casino Royale (2006)
by Neal Purvis, Robert Wade, Paul Haggis