A memorable scene from the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life [screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern].
Setup: After experiencing what the world would have been like had he not been born, George Bailey has a change of heart…
EXT. BRIDGE OVER RIVER – NIGHT MEDIUM SHOT The same part of the bridge where George was standing before Clarence jumped in. The wind is blowing as it has all through this sequence. George comes running into shot. He is frantically looking for Clarence. GEORGE Clarence! Clarence! Help me, Clarence. Get me back. Get me back. I don't care what happens to me. Only get me back to my wife and kids. Help me, Clarence, please! Please! I want to live again! CLOSEUP George leaning on the bridge railing, praying. GEORGE I want to live again. I want to live again. Please, God, let me live again. George sobs. Suddenly, toward the end of the above, the wind dies down. A soft, gentle snow begins to fall. CLOSE SHOT – GEORGE SOBBING AT THE RAILING The police car pulls up on the roadway behind him, and Bert comes into scene. BERT Hey, George! George! You all right? George backs away and gets set to hit Bert again. BERT Hey, what's the matter? GEORGE (warningly) Now get out of here, Bert, or I'll hit you again! Get out! BERT What the Sam Hill you yelling for, George? GEORGE Don't... George? George talks hopefully – George touches Bert unbelievingly – George's mouth is bleeding again. GEORGE Bert, do you know me? BERT Know you? Are you kiddin'? I've been looking all over town trying to find you. I saw your car piled into that tree down there, and I thought maybe... Hey, your mouth's bleeding; are you sure you're all right? GEORGE What did... George touches his lips with his tongue, wipes his mouth with his hand, laughs happily. His rapture knows no bounds. GEORGE (joyously) My mouth's bleeding, Bert! My mouth's bleed... (feeling in watch pocket) Zuzu's petals! Zuzu's... they're... they're here, Bert! What do you know about that? Merry Christmas! He practically embraces the astonished Bert, then runs at top speed toward town.
Here is the scene from the movie:
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 scene from It’s A Wonderful Life.
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.