Monday, May 9, 2016

TODAY'S NUGGET: Homicide (1991) - The Invisible Cut

[Quick Summary: A NYC cop is stretched between two cases: a splashy one he wants, and a small robbery case that he does not.]

Things I Do Not Find Helpful in a Script*: Directing on the page
Things I Do Find Helpful in a Script*: Invisible cuts on the page

To me, the first is generally about the visual look, sometimes at expense of story.

The second is focused on the visuals that build the story toward something.

The writer's job is to make these cuts as invisible as possible. But how?

In this script, Mamet uses cuts to:
- gather various points of view (ex. FBI team prepares to detonate a suspect's door) 
- show how a fight spirals out of control (ex. cops and murderer struggle for gun in a squad room)
- increase tension from location 1 to location 2 (see below)

Mamet does it by keeping the reader engaged and curious with what is happening. 

[For what it's worth, I was distracted by Mamet's use of "ANGLE," but it's his style.]

ex. "ANGLE
Ross looking at the sheet on the clipboard. He looks back at it. [What is on the clipboard?]

ANGLE INS
The letterhead. "Society for Comparative Linguistics" and at the bottom of the page, embossed, the address 212 W. Huron. [1st cut answers the question and asks the next one: "What's so special about that address?"]

EXT. 212 W. HURON NIGHT

Ross standing on the steps. Looking in through the glass. [2nd cut changes our location AND pushes the story forward. We now want to see what Ross is seeing.]

ANGLE POV
The lobby, empty." [3rd cut shows Ross' POV. Will he scope it out?]

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I was surprised how many cuts I missed while reading (an excellent thing).

Homicide (1991)(4/15/89 draft)
by David Mamet

*I speak here of a spec/selling script.  A shooting script, of course, will likely include more directing on the page out of necessity.

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