Monday, May 1, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: They Live (1988) - "Compare & Contrast" Technique for a Reveal

[Quick Summary: Down on his luck worker finds a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see that aliens are keeping humans asleep and enslaved.]

How would you reveal aliens among us?

In this script, writer John Carpenter first grounds us in the mundane...

...and then mixes it with the extraordinary (because he is, after all, Carpenter).

Below, he uses a "compare and contrast" technique to get the reveal across:

a) Nada, our hero, sees a human get into a car (no sunglasses, ordinary).
b) Nada sees an alien (with sunglasses, extraordinary).
c) Nada can't make sense of what he's just seen (can't process the illogical).

ex. "Nada looks over...

HIS POV: (normal, color) as the Well-Dressed Customer walks up to his Mercedes. He drops a full paper on the sidewalk, keeps the business section, gets into the car. Sunglasses come up OVER FRAME (black and white) and now it's a Well-Dressed Hideous Ghoul who shoots Nada a final glance...

VENDOR: Hey buddy -- I don't want a hassle, okay? Either pay me or put it back...

Nada numbly puts back the magazine. He's moving on auto pilot now, staggering past the Vendor who looks at him curiously. Moving on down the street...

HIS POV: THRU SUNGLASSES (black and white), a BUSINESSMAN GHOUL, same awful face, stands at a pay phone...

BUSINESSMAN GHOUL: Don't worry, the insurance company will take care of it."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: "Comparing and contrasting" external situations is an effective way to reveal what a character is having difficulty processing internally.

They Live (1988)
by John Carpenter (written as Frank Armitage)(shooting script)
Based upon the short story, "Eight O'Clock in the Morning," by Ray Nelson*

* I am interested that Nelson is apparently the creator of the propeller beanie.

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