Monday, December 4, 2017

TODAY'S NUGGET: In Good Company (2004) - "Well-Defined, Three Dimensional Character"

[Quick Summary: A 51 y.o. magazine ad exec is demoted and to make it worse, his daughter starts dating his new 26 y.o. boss.]

What is a "well-defined, three dimensional character"?!
 
Over the years, I've grown frustrated with this term for 2 reasons:

1) Everyone wants one, but what is it? No one had a good definition.

So here are my own working definitions:

- "Well-defined" = Clear traits, flaws, distinguishing characteristics, etc.
- "Three dimensional" = We can tell the characters have larger lives outside the scene.  This story is only a snapshot or a small part of that life.

2) How much do you show of a character's life to make him/her "three dimensional"? A little bit? A lot?

This is trickier.  The short answer is "Just Enough," i.e., personal taste.

The long answer is: It depends on what the writer is trying to accomplish.

Some scripts have more. Some scripts have very little (mostly procedurals or plot driven).*

This script is one of those that show more of the personal life. 

Why?  One reason is that his professional life (demotion) leaks into his personal life (daughter in college, and a baby on the way).

In the scene below, note how:
- The parallel format makes us contrast how Dan and Carter handle stress.
- Showing a peek of their lives away from the office (away from Dan vs. Carter) gives the audience a little more about each of their motivations.
- These motives will pay off later.  They're not just here to take up space.

ex. "EXT. BANK - DAY

Ann and Dan walk into a bank MORTGAGE LOAN office.

INT. BANK - DAY

Dan and Ann are in the BANK LOAN OFFICE, filling out forms for a second mortgage.

LOAN OFFICER: Sign here, here, and here and you've got your second mortgage.

Dan looks at Ann. She smiles at him, a bit ruefully.

Dan SIGNS.

INT. DIVORCE LAWYER'S OFFICE - DAY

Carter SIGNS papers.

Carter is sitting in a LAWYER'S OFFICE, filling out forms for his divorce.

DIVORCE LAWYER: Sign there, there... and there. And it's official...

Carter FINISHES SIGNING.

DIVORCE LAWYER: You're divorced."

WHAT I'VE LEARNED: I always afraid that if I take the reader away from the main conflict, they'll lose interest.

Here, I see that it's actually encouraged, as long as there's a reason for those scenes.

In Good Company (2004)(final shooting script)
by Paul Weitz

*To get a better feel, it helps to read a wide range of scripts.
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