Script Reading & Analysis: “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”

November 16th, 2012 by

For our last script reading and analysis this year, I propose we read a holiday script. My suggestion is Planes, Trains & Automobiles, but I can’t find it hosted online anywhere. So two questions:

1. How many of you are interested in reading PT&A? We have yet to do a John Hughes script and this is a particularly good one.

2. I know there is a PDF of the June 23, 1987 shooting script floating around. Does anyone know if it’s hosted somewhere? If so, please post in comments.

Actually I have a third question: Do you want to continue with this monthly series? Participation in the actual discussion has been pretty lax. However I also hear from people via email they do actually use the series as a motivator to read the scripts.

I think everyone knows how important I believe reading movie scripts is, but I’d sure like to see more of an embrace of the series. If not, I suppose we could drop it.

Thoughts? Suggestions on how to increase participation?

8 thoughts on “Script Reading & Analysis: “Planes, Trains & Automobiles”

  1. dw says:

    I don’t know where it’s hosted, but the pdf file is 165 pages and the actual page count is 143 pages. It’s dialogue heavy, but that’s still pretty long. I wouldn’t be too disappointed if you stopped doing it (but I haven’t been a big participator in the past). For me personally, the big issue is time. You choose well known movies (for good reason), but almost all of the times I’ve already read the script and seen the movie, so I’m not too inclined to spend an hour reading a script I’ve already read when there’s thousands of others I haven’t (or two hours re-watching a movie when I’m already behind on my Netflix queue and don’t get to the theater near as often as I’d like).

  2. Meg T says:

    I think I am in genre overkill–I read that as Planes, Trains and Zombies.

  3. Let me vote for the positive – this GITS series, imho, is one of the best ways to learn. In fact, this film analysis course is what got me hooked on GITS 2 years ago.

    Watching movies is great. Reading screenplays is important. BUT, sitting on the divan, script in one hand (w/ the remote in the other), while watching at the same time, is the best. You get to compare & contrast(*). Stop and dig deeper into the script – “Why did they make that change?”; “Why did they drop that scene?”; “How did they replace the written words with 1 or 2 facial gestures or a visual action?”

    (remember the airport scene in Casablanca? Immediately after Rick shoots Major Strasser? The back-and-forth with the eyes – added after the script – between Rick and Inspector Renaud means everything. Talk about subtext! This “little” change speaks volumes. I’m not talking about Improv that happened to work out well, but real changes made that added to our characters’ complexity ).

    In most cases, these changes improve the film. Sure, it looked great on paper. But the film becomes better with the changes. Understanding those changes, and why the director made them, is a great learning experience.

    And since film is a visual medium, and the goal is to produce a film to tell our character’s stories, it’s important that we see that final product and not simply rely on the printed word as final.

    Scott – count me in. I’ll commit for the next 12 right here and now.

    Is my electronic signature okay?

    John A

    * = quick example: Raiders of the Lost Ark: the important bar scene in Tibet:

    In the script, it’s dull and just doesn’t do it (the Sherpas and the Mtn. Trekkers are mad at each other and want to fight). Would be a cliched “western bar fight” scene on film, nothing more. It would reveal / set-up nothing for later.

    BUT in the film, Speilberg changed it: Marion and the local drinking champion go head-to-head with their knockout contest. Great visual. Establishes Marion immediately and gives her gravitas (important – remember: she becomes Indy’s partner in his journey). Plus – this sets up the film for later payoff with Belloq (Indy’s Nemesis) in the tent out in Egypt.

    Watching the movie, while reading the script, stopping it and asking yourself questions – analyzing it – that’s how I got better from this class.

  4. SabinaGiado says:

    I have to say without a hint of exaggeration that the bar scene with Marion drinking the Sherpa under the table is my FAVORITE scene of all time. Best freakin’ introduction of a female character EVER.

    I have to say I have just gotten on board with the reading and analysis of a script monthly. To be frank, I’m frightened of posting my notes for fear of sounding stupid.

    Maybe a few nuggets thrown at us that we coalesce our thoughts around? A few thoughtful questions maybe? Maybe a link back to the series on How To Read A Screenplay.

    I for one didn’t much like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Can’t remember why. I vote It’s A Wonderful Life instead.

  5. Yona WISEMAN says:

    I’m new to this whole GITS site but I think it’s great and I’d be really keen to do a monthly script read – it’s just the kind of external motivation I need to help me get these things done. Don’t mind which script we read – ones we don’t like are probably at least as educational as the ones we love.

  6. Dear Sabina and Yona,

    Glad to hear that you absolutely LOVE the bar scene with Marion in RAIDERS. Now, did you know that scene WAS 100% DIFFERENT in the screenplay? That we compared it (to the finished film) and analyzed it in Scott’s class? Then we discussed WHY it made the film better? HOW it strengthened Marion’s character and gave her equal power to Indy? Then set her up for later payoff in Egypt?

    Life is funny. Sometimes I have no interest in seeing a particular movie on Saturday night, but my wife (of 29 years) drags me, anyway. Such was the case for Seabiscuit; Brokeback Mountain; and A Beautiful Mind. (Seabiscuit = a film about a horse race, and a trainer, and a jockey? In the 1930’s? Are you serious?).

    Boy, was I ever stupid.

    (Damn good thing I listen to her . . .)

    Last month in GITS we analyzed Black Swan. Now, is this “a guy movie”? Are you kidding? The Protagonist is an obcessed ballet dancer! We both “passed” on it in the theatres. Not interested.

    Then we studied it in Scott’s GITS class. And I absolutely loved (and learned a lot from) it. Had a lively online debate (as the film has multiple interpretations). What unbelievable characters!

    So Sabina and Yona, you must join us for watching a film while reading the screenplay at the same time. You can’t believe the benefit derived from this.

    So bring on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles!

    (If it’s a John Hughes movie, I can guarantee you that we’ll all learn something about Character).

    John A

    ps: Scott – see the trend starting here? You WILL get students interested in putting in the work required for this class. Because the class is just GREAT. We’ve GOT to keep it!

    Maybe we just need a Christmas / New Year’s Eve break of a month, because everyone is so stressed out for the holidays and the travel and the gifts and the Bowl Games, etc etc, but do keep it going in 2013. For real.

  7. I participate in this series when I can. This year has been busy for me and I haven’t had time to read as many scripts as I would have liked. As you mentioned, Scott, participation has dwindled and it might not be worth continuing the series unless more people join in the discussions. It’s a time commitment for you that may be better used somewhere else.

    Not sure how to increase participation either. I don’t think it’s the scripts we choose. It is important to read a variety of genres and I think it has been a good selection so far.

  8. ubermelinda says:

    FYI – Huge collection of John Hughes scripts over at Write to Reel, including two drafts of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles:

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