Monday, June 30, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Three Days of Condor (1975) - Every Scene Should Convey a Single Shot

[Quick Summary: After a CIA researcher's co-workers are mass murdered, he uncovers a huge conspiracy.]

I hate vague aphorisms.

What does "every scene should convey a single shot" mean?

I know it's a true observation, but for heaven's sake, give me EXAMPLES, people, EXAMPLES!!

This Sidney Pollock directed script happens to have excellent ones:

ex. "EXT. PHONE & TURNER

We should be aware of how menacing PASSERSBY seem to TURNER.

TURNER: I told you, my name's Turner - I work for you! Something's happened, somebody came in and --!

MITCHELL: Identify yourself.

TURNER can only hold tight to the phone, his mind blank. So, very clear, level:

MITCHELL: What is your designation?

It's like talking to a goddamn computer: if you don't speak its programmed language, it won't respond. TURNER makes an enormous effort:

TURNER: This is...oh...Condor!"

The scene = A panicked Turner is on the phone and tries to get help.

The shot = Anxious Turner is in the phone booth. People pass by.  Maybe they look in?  Turner struggles to stay calm.

Notice how the writing directs the mind's eye:

- The focus is on Turner and his paranoia.
- Whether inside or outside the booth, it's all about how Turner acts and reacts.
- It's easy to see the whole interaction in one shot. 
 
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Think in terms of 1 scene = 1 shot. 

Keep scenes clean (clear, no clutter, not too much busyness).

Three Days of Condor (1975)
by Lorenzo Semple Jr. and David Rayfiel
Based on the novel Six Days of Condor by James Grady

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