Scene Description Spotlight: (500) Days of Summer

April 14th, 2012 by

One of the best moments in the delightful film (500) Days of Summer is the morning-after-having-sex-with-Summer-big-dance-bit. Here’s a plot summary:

He’s Tom, from New Jersey, working in L.A. writing greeting cards even through he’s an architect by training. She’s Summer, in from Michigan. Day one is her first day as an AA in Tom’s office. We jump back and forth in time: by day 67, they’ve become an item when she decides to put aside the lovemaking and just be friends. Tom, a romantic who’s sure Summer is the one for him, wallows in self pity. We go back to the early days and see the relationship begin. Summer tells him right away that she doesn’t believe in love. He mopes well past day 100. Then, as day 500 approaches, they find themselves at a wedding together. Does the old flame rekindle? Is Tom right that destiny controls love?

Here’s that scene:

Here is the scene as written in the script with a lead-in from the night before:

INT TOM'S BEDROOM - SAME

We watch from  behind as he re-enters his bedroom.  Where
Summer waits.  Under the covers.  Naked.

                    SUMMER
          Hi.

                    TOM
          Oh, sweet Jesus!

FADE UP: "YOU MAKE MY DREAMS COME TRUE" by Hall and Oates.

CUT TO:

EXT DOWNTOWN STREET -- MORNING

It's the greatest morning of all time!

Tom walks down the street.  Or, more accurately, Tom struts
down the street.  People wave as he passes by, they clap, they
give him thumbs up.  Tom points at people as he passes,
winking, doing a little shuffle.  He is the man.  He checke out
his reflection in a window.  A YOUNG PAUL NEWMAN stares back.

A GROUP of BUSINESSMEN break into a Busby Berkeley-style
choreographed dance.  A whole parade is forming behind Tom.
The POSTMAN, a POLICE OFFICER, the HOT DOG VENDOR, the
MICHELIN MAN, the SAN DIEGO CHICKEN, everybody loves Tom
today.  HALL and OATES themselves walk with Tom singing the
song.

Cars stop at crosswalks to let Tom go by.  The DRIVERS also
pump their fists in celebration of Tom's achievement last
night.  He walks on, the man.

We notice the sidewalk lights up every time he touches the
pavement like in "Billie Jean".  CARTOON BIRDS fly onto Tom's
shoulder.  He smiles and winks at them.

Tom breaks off from the parade as he approaches his office.

Two things. First, as screenwriters, it’s not our job to choreograph every dance move in a scene like this, but rather set the mood and provide suggestions. Paul Newman’s image? Hall and Oates appear on screen? Sure, why not? It contributes to the fun of the scene and the script read. But once production begins, there are actual people — the director, choreographer, etc — who will handle the specifics of said scene.

Second, this may seem like merely a fun scene. Yes, it is fun. But it actually underscores something important in terms of story: Tom is a total romantic. So when he consummates his relationship with Summer, it follows logically — per his romanticism — that he would have a fantastical scene like this in which the whole world acknowledges… not once, but twice… that he is “the man.”

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