[Quick Summary: A former showgirl is saddled with a 6 y.o. boy whose parents were shot by unsavory thugs.]
In my search for anything Sidney Lumet wrote and/or directed, I found this script.
I learned that:
- Lumet's version was a remake (with Sharon Stone, circa 1999).
- The great John Cassavetes wrote and directed the original (with his wife Gena Rowlands, 1980).
- I had Cassavetes' draft, which was great, as Lumet's draft is lost to the winds.
I often rush in my scripts because I'm worried I'll lose the audience's attention.
This script taught me take your time and Do Not Rush.
The audience will hang in there if each step has a purpose and builds to somewhere.
In this story:
1) We begin with Jeri (Phil's mom) on the bus, and her groceries spill. (p. 1-2)
2) Jeri gets to her apartment building and is nervous of the strange man in the lobby. (bottom p. 2)
3) Jack (Phil's dad) unlocks many bolts and chains to let Jeri in the apartment. (p. 4)
4) We meet one of our main characters, PHIL (6), and his sister Joan (7) on p. 4.
5) Jeri and Jack argue about packed bags and leaving. The kids are scared. (p. 5-10)
6) The thugs want Jack's secret ledger of the mafia's crooked deals. (p. 7)
7) GLORIA, the other main character, knocks on the door for coffee. (p. 11)
So, it took 4 pages to get to Phil, and 11 for Gloria. Is this necessary? Here, yes.
Each step BUILDS with a PURPOSE:
1) Jeri is a good, hard working, middle class mother.
2) Jeri is scared of something (tension). It makes us curious as to why.
3) The family is in imminent danger.
4) Innocent kids are involved. This is a very bad situation.
5) They are about to flee from thugs. Now I can see that this is a road trip story.
6) This sets up why there are high stakes for Phil and Gloria.
7) Once Gloria takes the kid in, she'll be hunted too.
Notice how the script took its time in showing us that this is a close, loving family.
If it had started right at p. 7, we would not have as much sympathy for Phil's plight.
ex. "JACK: They know we're close. They know I live for my family.
JERI: How do they know?
JACK: That's all I talk about. I don't run with babes. I've got pictures of the kids in my wallet.
JERI: You talk about the kids to them?
JACK: Of course I do. I talk about the kids to everybody.
JERI goes back into the kitchen.
JERI: All right. Never mind dinner. Pack your things."
WHAT I'VE LEARNED: Don't rush. Build story blocks with purpose.
Kurosawa was impressed too.
Gloria (1980)(rev. through 9/24/79)
by John Cassavetes