Monday, November 24, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Crimes of the Heart (1986) - Writing How Females Interact

[Quick Summary: Three sisters reunite in their hometown when tragedy strikes.]

After reading this comedy script, I believe there's no excuse for flat female characters.

Many scripts reduce women to one dimension - bitch, golddigger, etc. 

They may get "what" her role is, and "why" she is in the story, but often miss HOW she interacts with people:  

- They miss the double/triple meanings. 

- They miss that female interactions are layered, nuanced, complex, with attitude, ALL AT ONCE.

[Thus, reducing women to one dimension always feels incomplete.]

This script excels at capturing the "how":

ex. "CHICK: Oh, speaking of which, remember that little polka dot dress you got Peekay for her fifth birthday last month?

LENNY: The red and white one?
     
CHICK: Yes; well, the first time I put it in the washing machine, I mean the very first time, it fell all to pieces. Those little polka dots just dropped right off into the water.

LENNY (crushed): Oh, no. Well, I'll get something else for her then...a little toy.

CHICK: Oh, no, no, no, no, no!....We wouldn't hear of it! I just wanted to let you know so you wouldn't go and waste any more of your hard-earned money on that make of dress. Those inexpensive brands just don't hold up."

Note in this scene:

- Chick wants to thank Lenny for a gift (goal).
- Chick also enjoys embarrassing Lenny.
- Chick is both polite (thanking) and rude (slyly pointing out Lenny is poor for no good reason other than to feel superior).
- Lenny wants to finish this conversation fast (goal).
- Lenny is humiliated.
- Lenny is under stress (from previous scene) which makes this scene even worse.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: This script only has three characters and a few settings, yet it's terribly memorable because of the women's interactions.

Crimes of the Heart (1986)(rev. dated 2/1/86)
Adapted by Beth Henley from her 1981 Pulitzer Prize winning play

Monday, November 17, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGT: Catch-22 (1970) - Blurring Reality & a Dream State

[Quick Summary: While wounded airman tries to get out of flying again, he falls in and out of memories.]

No disrespect to anyone, but this story didn't appeal to me.

It all seemed pointless.

(Perhaps that was the point, since the script ridicules war (satire), and mocks black marketing (farce).) 

I did like how this script excels in blurring reality and dream state:

ex. "Tappman opens the book, then closes it again and looks up. His eye focus on something in the distance. He blinks.

SHOT - TAPPMAN'S POV

In the distance, sitting high up on the branch of a tree, watching the ceremony, is Yossarian, naked.

SHOT - TAPPMAN

He shakes his head.

MAJOR MAJOR: Is there something wrong?

TAPPMAN: I - no - I thought I saw something.

MAJOR MAJOR: A naked man in a tree?

TAPPMAN: Yes, That's it.

DANBY (Looking down, slightly embarrassed): That's just Yossarian.

TAPPMAN: Oh. Well - in that case -

Tappman opens the book and begins reading the thirteenth Psalm."

Is this reality? A dream? I couldn't tell.

However, it works here because the story didn't rely on one or the other.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Most stories want the audience to distinguish between reality and dream state.  This one deliberately wants them blurred.

Catch-22 (1970)(second draft)
by Buck Henry
Adapted from the novel Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

Monday, November 10, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Mission Impossible (1996) - Opening an Action Film

[Quick Summary: IMF agent Ethan Hawke goes after the elusive "Job" who killed his teammates.]

How do I convey, "This is an action film!" (without saying so)?

Let's examine this opening scene (p. 1-2):

- Jack is inside a hotel room closet in Kiev.
- On a small tv, he watches surveillance of two men in the next room.
- One man (Anatoly) interrogates a sobbing man (Kasminov).
- There's a dead woman on the bed.

Up until this point, this could be a thriller or a drama.

Then on p. 2:

"JACK, impatient, checks his watch.

JACK: Jesus, she's been under too long. Come on, come on!"

A-ha! Jack, and others, are in on the con.

Notice that this is p. 2, and we're moving fast, i.e., action-y pacing.

More clues:

- Jack's concern re: the woman = Urgency
- Anatoly's physicality hurries things up
- Genre words: "bare bulb", "blood", "shabby room"

WHAT I'VE LEARNED:  An action opening has suspense, much like a thriller, but its pacing is often quicker (urgency, dire consequences).

Mission Impossible (1996)
by David Koepp & Robert Towne

Monday, November 3, 2014

TODAY'S NUGGET: Goonies (1985) - Real Stakes = Strong Motive

[Quick Summary: Kids from the wrong side of the tracks ("goonies") hunt for buried treasure.]

Bad news: This script is approximately 134 pgs.

Good news: This 134 pg. script is chock full of how to involve the reader in your adventure.

ex. "Data sees himself as Agent 007. Data STANDS on the window of his home. He has ATTACHED himself to a clothes line that CONNECTS Mikey's house to Data's. A LARGE PORTABLE CASSETTE player is STRAPPED to Data's chest. The Bond Theme BLARES from the cassette."

Bad news: I wanted to share an early draft of this script, but it isn't available online.

Good news: I read the early draft for you.

It was good, but I was impressed how the later draft deepened my investment in the characters.

ex. In the early draft, Mikey and friends went after buried treasure because they were bored, and it was summer.

This motive seemed weak. 

However, in the later draft, Mikey went after the treasure because he was losing his home the next day.

These real stakes = strong motive. This make-believe world suddenly became much more three dimensional to me.

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: If you find the right motive for your character, I will likely buy whatever you tell me about that character.

Goonies (1985)(4th draft)
by Christopher Columbus