Monday, July 28, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Thief (1981) - What a Great Transition Looks Like

[Quick Summary: A thief tries for one last score, but the local mafia will not let him go.]

This film was Michael Mann's directorial debut, and broke ground for many reasons. (See here and here.)

However, I was impressed by the transitions.

Transitions are not just getting in and out of scenes, but also how the beats move us from one moment to the next.

ex.  "FRANK: I want you with me and make this happen. So I am asking: Be with me. Be my woman. I will be your man. (beat) I got a way...I could make it happen faster, much faster. I'm asking...(beat)...You know?

Jessie stares out the window into the shiny black night and lights. Then her eyes cross back to Frank.

There's a long pause. Frank holds both her hands tighter on the table. They stare at each other across the table. She smiles."

So here's the flow:

- Frank lays out his heart to Jessie.
- The easy way out would've been to have Jessie say, "OK", here.
- Instead, we SEE her stare out the window (indecision).
- We SEE her look at Frank and pause (is he worth the risk?)
- Frank squeezes her hands (please, take a risk on me).
- She stares some more (she waffles)
- Then she smiles (she is on board!)

We have transitioned from two individuals ---> one team.

It's such a strong visual to SEE her fall in love vs. her TELL us.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: What is the only way to understand what transitions are and how to write them?

Experience, i.e., reading a ton of scripts.

Thief (1981)(final draft)
by Michael Mann
Based on the novel "The Home Invaders" by Frank Hohimer

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