Script To Screen: “Say Anything”

November 2nd, 2011 by

A memorable scene from Say Anything (written by Cameron Crowe):

Setup: Lloyd drives over to Diane’s house to deliver a message:

INT. DIANE'S HOUSE - DAY

Diane is lying on her bed, upset.  We hear music coming from 
outside.  Diane lifts her head slightly.

EXT. DIANE'S HOUSE - DAY

Lloyd has driven over, and is holding a boom box high above his 
head with both hands.  It is playing 'In Your Eyes'.

INT. DIANE'S HOUSE - DAY

Diane lets her head drop back onto the pillow when she realises 
where the music is coming from, and who it is. 

EXT. DIANE'S HOUSE - DAY

Lloyd is still there, in the same position as before.

INT. DIANE'S HOUSE - DAY

Diane turns away from the window, trying to ignore the music.

EXT. DIANE'S HOUSE - DAY

Lloyd is still there, raising the box slightly at times, getting 
uncomfortable, but still stays there.  The camera slowly zooms 
into his face.

Here is the movie scene:

Questions to ask to analyze the scene:

* What elements in the movie scene are the same as the script?

* What elements in the movie scene are different than the script?

* Regarding the differences, put yourself in the mindset of the filmmakers and speculate: Why did they make the changes they did?

* How did the changes improve the scene?

* Alternatively are there elements in the script, not present in the movie, that are better than the final version of the scene?

* Note each camera shot in the movie version. Which of them does the script suggest via sluglines or scene description?

* How does the script convey a sense of the scene’s tone, feel, and pace through scene description and dialogue?

* What ‘magic’ exists in the movie that is not indicated in the words of the script? How do you suppose that magic emerged?

I’ll see you in comments for a discussion of this terrific scene from Say Anything.

One of the single best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script To Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

3 thoughts on “Script To Screen: “Say Anything”

  1. Great scene, and pretty much exactly the same from script to screen. However, here’s some trivia about the song playing on the boom box. According to a recent interview, Cameron Crowe wrote the scene with Billy Idol’s ‘To Be A Lover’ in mind. Here’s what he had to say:

    ‘To Be a Lover’ was a song I liked for [exactly] one day — the day I wrote that scene. It never worked for the scene the day before or after. John Cusack is playing Fishbone’s ‘Bonin’ in the Boneyard’ in the actual scene, but when we put the movie together, it didn’t work at all. He seemed like a crazed Fishbone fan who just happened to be outside her window.

    But with ‘In Your Eyes,’ it was like his life was leading to that moment. We were lucky Peter Gabriel let us use it. It’s a mystical kind of marriage, when a song works with film. I live for those kinds of marriages. It’s always fun to find that connection as a director.

    However, a commenter had this to say about it: I think Cameron Crowe may have gotten this wrong. On the “Say Anything” dvd commentary, Cusack says he was really playing Fishbone’s “Turn the Other Way”. So, right band, wrong song.

    In any case, in the script excerpt it says ‘In Your Eyes’ and the scene plays just like written, so it makes me wonder if the script excerpt is from a transcript or a draft made after the movie was finished.

    If I remember correctly, something I heard years ago, there was also a dispute with Peter Gabriel about the usage of the song. He asked for an enormous amount of money to license the song (enormous back then, I think it was $175000 or something like that) but Crowe insisted on having the song in there and convinced the studio to pay up.

    Good move. It’s a classic.

    1. Scott says:

      Teddy, we can always rely on you to dig up background on anything music related to movies. Thanks for that info.

      I have a special connection to that album by Peter Gabriel “So”. I tend to be something of a serial monogamist when it comes to songs and albums. That is I discover something, then listen to it almost exclusively for weeks, even months on end.

      When I was driving up and down the state of California from one stand-up gig comedy gig to the next, while I was writing the script K-9, the one album I listened to over and over again on my car’s tape player was “So”. Any time I hear a song from the album, I’m immediately transported back to my beat-to-shit Ford Fairmont, trekking up Interstate 5.

      Amazing how music can lock you into a specific time and place…

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