Screenwriter John Gary said in an interview:
I started reading things and seeing them go up onscreen eventually. I was like, "Oh, that script was great. What the hell happened?" It's because there can be a disconnect between what reads like butter but just isn't a great blueprint. There are some writers who get that, who know how to write scripts that end up great movies. And being able to read a script and think of it not as just a script but rather as a blueprint for making a film is something we often get away from as writers - our focus is so much on how to write the perfect screenplay, when what we really need to focus on is how to write the perfect movie. And those two things can be different.This Coens script is an excellent example of writing a MOVIE vs. the perfect screenplay.
I like it because it focuses on the interesting things the characters do (vs. lot of dialogue, or trying too hard, or trying to outsmart the audience).
In the example below, note:
- the interesting way the bad guy (Chigurh) gets a door open
- how the writers use action verbs and descriptive words to draw the sequence for our mind's eye
ex. "AIR TANK
We follow it being toted along a gravel path and up three shallow steps to a trailer door. [Action #1]
A hand rises to knock. Tubing runs out of the sleeve and into the fist clenched to knock. The door rattles under the knock. A short beat. [#2, 3, 4 actions in a row]
The hand opens to press the nozzle at the end of the tube against the lock cylinder. [#5 action]
A sharp report. [Result of action #1-5]
A cylinder of brass from the door slams into the far wall denting it and drops to the floor and rolls. [Reaction]
Reverse on the door. Daylight shows through the lock. [Another angle of reaction]
The door swings slowly in and Chigurh, hard backlit, enters." [He achieves goal.]
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I'm reminded again that the end product (a film) is a visual medium.
Thus, my scripts need to be more visual, i.e., I must learn to draw better pictures with words.
No Country for Old Men (2007)(draft dated 11/28/07)
Adapted by Joel Coen & Ethan Coen
Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy