GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “Groundhog Day” — Dialogue

February 1st, 2013 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, story by Danny Rubin. The movie received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s dialogue.

* What do you consider to be the most memorable lines?

* Any notable callbacks (a line used once, then used again later in a different context)?

* How about set-up & payoffs?

* Any exposition that caught your eye for being handled exceptionally well?

Here is an excerpt from a Big Think interview with Danny Rubin:

Question: How did “Groundhog Day” become a classic film?

Danny Rubin:  Well, it wasn’t an overnight success in that way.  I mean, I think when it first came out, generally the reviews said, “Another comedy by Harold Ramis.  It’s kind of cute.”  Two, two and half star kind of reviews.  But there were other places where people seemed to dig it right away.  I was getting letters from Germany and from England.  A lot of fans in England who just thought it was an extraordinary movie and my feeling was I felt justified.  I was like, “Yeah, that’s what it was supposed to be.”  And it was just very slowly that people realized that everybody was sort of saying, “Oh, have you seen Groundhog Day?  It was really good.”  And it was just sort of a buzz started developing and then little things started happening.

Like, there was a big Buddhist convention in San Francisco and somebody delivered a paper about Groundhog Day and Buddhism and people realized that people were – psychologists were showing it to their patients, prescribing it and all kinds of different religious disciplines were embracing it and giving sermons and lectures and writing important papers based on the philosophy of Groundhog Day.

And Harold Ramis was also getting letters and notes and the two of us would compare things and say, “Wow, this is really interesting.”  And then, at some point, I guess Roger Ebert wrote, not a retraction, but a new review that sort of said, “I think we should revisit this movie.  I think this is a little better than I thought.”  And I know at the end of the year that it came out in’93, William Goldman, the screenwriter, was reflecting on movies of the past year and he was the one who wrote, “I think Groundhog Day is the one that will be – of all of the movies that came out this year, it’s the one that will be remembered in 10 years,” and perhaps that gave it some street cred or got some people thinking.

But, I don’t know.  I think people just like it and a little bit at a time, it started to develop this, not exactly a following, but an awful lot of people who identified with it.

Question: What makes people identify so strongly with the movie?

Danny Rubin:  I haven’t thought a lot about that, but everybody seems to have their own reason and that’s what makes it so remarkable.  Everybody seems to bring their own way of thinking and their own discipline to bear on the ideas within it and would express this is absolutely describing the essence of Judaism.  This is the essence of Nietzsche’s philosophy.  This is the essence homeopathy.  I mean, I’ve seen all of this.  I think there’s something about – I think we understand how people grow and develop.  Okay, I have a few answers.  I think I understand how people – we understand how people grow and develop in a linear time fashion.  How you have an adolescence at a certain age and you start to develop adulthood and you start to mature.  But, I think the movie shows that it is the repetition of days itself which pushes us forward in our own maturation as we start to encounter the same things over and over again.

And so, there’s an element of truth to the fact that we are repeating the same day over and over again.  But, I think the biggest thing that affects people is the fact that Phil is presented with the exact same day and the very first time he’s presented with it, it’s probably the worst day of his life.  And, by the end of the movie, we see that it’s the exact same day but somehow this is probably the best day of his life.  It’s the day he fell in love and she fell in love with him and everybody loves him and he was living a fulfilling life pursuing culture and things that he loved and appreciating the day and doing good works and contributing to society and it makes it very clear that we are in control of our day.  We can control our future.  There’s something very empowering about it and Groundhog Day, it’s almost an experiment that says, “See?  Here’s a guy who is having a terrible day and he’s kind of a horrible person and just through the act of repetition and paying attention and remembering, he is forced to change who he is and by changing who he is, he changes the life that he experiences the world around him.  That, I think, is the main thing that gets people very excited about the movie.

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download Groundhog Day, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 on structure, go here.

For Part 3 on characters, go here.

For Part 4 on themes, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “Groundhog Day” — Themes

January 31st, 2013 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, story by Danny Rubin. The movie received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s themes. There are several of them. Which ones do you see at work in the story?

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, January 28: General comments
Tuesday, January 29: Structure
Wednesday, January 30: Characters
Thursday, January 31: Themes
Friday, February 1: Dialogue

Here is an excerpt from a Big Think interview with Danny Rubin:

Question: How did the film change from the original script?

Danny Rubin: One thing that occurred to me is I wanted to do something fun with the movie and the first thing I thought was, “You know what?  I don’t want to have to deal with how he got into this situation.  I don’t want to deal with some kind of supernatural reason that he was stuck in the same day because then the movie becomes about the plot of his getting out from under it instead of about that existential quality of how does he just deal with it.”

And so, I thought, “Well, I know how I can avoid that.  I’ll start in the middle.  The first things that happens is you hear the clock radio come on with the “I Got You Babe” and then the DJs come on doing their little shtick and Phil is able to sort of mouth the words to what they’re saying when he wakes up before he even knows what they’re saying and the audience is thinking, “Huh, that’s strange.  How does he know what’s playing on the radio?”  And then he goes downstairs and he knows what Mr. Lancaster is going to say before she says it, so he’s anticipating and the audience is thinking, “Wow, this is weird.  How does this guy know what’s going to happen before it happens?”

Then he goes outside and this geeky goes, “Phil?” and Phil goes up to him and takes off his glove and he slugs him and we have no idea why that happened.  And so, I set it up by beginning in the middle with this mystery.  How does this guy have this supernatural ability and we go through meeting, you know, going through the Groundhog report and setting up the day and then he repeats the day and that’s when we know how the movie is set up and we understand how he knows what he knows.

That was the way I set it up and from the very beginning, they were – the studio was a little antsy about that.  Harold Ramis, the director, said that he liked that.  He tried to keep it, but eventually there was just this weight of convention where they really wanted to just establish who he is, set it up and then have this thing happen when he starts repeating the day.  And so, I’d say that was the biggest thing that changed, was when the movie opened, the beginning of it.

And also, as part of having the movie start in the middle, I had a voice-over.  Phil had a voice-over sort of leading the audience along so they wouldn’t feel too disrupted or too disoriented and kind of helping them bond with Phil and as soon as we straightened out the timeline to where it began a little sooner, that became unnecessary.  So, on the face of it, the very two biggest changes were that it began soon, before the repetition and that there’s no voice-over.

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download Groundhog Day, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 on structure, go here.

For Part 3 on characters, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “Groundhog Day” — Characters

January 30th, 2013 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, story by Danny Rubin. The movie received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s characters. Here is a list of the primary ones:

Phil

Rita

Larry

Ned

Gus

Ralph

Interesting there are so few primary characters in this story, really only Phil, Rita, Larry, and Ned.

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, January 28: General comments
Tuesday, January 29: Structure
Wednesday, January 30: Characters
Thursday, January 31: Themes
Friday, February 1: Dialogue

Here is an excerpt from a Big Think interview with Danny Rubin:

Question: What were the reactions to the script?

Danny Rubin: I had written one screenplay already and had sold it and that was the sum total of my Hollywood experience up until then.  I had gone to a lot of meetings and my agent had pretty much said, “You really need to write something else and get it out there quickly before people tire of you,” and I had had this thought and I decided, you know what, I could write that one quickly.  That’s a really good one.  It’s a little movie.  I can write it quickly and get it out there and use it as a writing sample just to show people when I walk in the room, here’s my latest script.

So, that was the purpose of it and then after it went out, I got a ton of meetings off of it because people liked the story and they liked the writing and I counted 50 different meetings and that’s what really got my feet wet in Hollywood.  I got to meet a lot of these producers.  I got a couple of jobs off of it.  Nobody wanted to make Groundhog Day.  In fact, kind of strangely, I was new to L.A. and I was going to these meetings and people would say, “Danny, glad to meet you.  I loved Groundhog Day.  Of course, we can’t make it,” and I would say, “Of course.”  And nobody ever explained to me why and I didn’t ask why not because I was trying to just go along, get along to accept the industry on its own terms and they’d say, “Well, but what else have you got?” or, “We’ve got this list of ideas.  See if you like any of those,” and then I got a couple of jobs and I was on my way and it wasn’t until my agent quit to become a school teacher, that I found myself without an agent, but I had this spec script that I was sending around to try and get a new agent and that’s how that script wound up at CAA with Richard Lovett.

He called me and said, “I love Groundhog Day.  Of course we can’t represent you.”  And I said, “Of course,” and he said, “But I have a client who I think might like this.  Can I give it to him?” and he sent it to Harold Ramis and that’s how the movie got set up.

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download Groundhog Day, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 about structure, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “Groundhog Day” — Structure

January 29th, 2013 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1993 movie Groundhog Day, screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, story by Danny Rubin. The movie received the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s structure. How would you break down the story’s plot? What do you think are the major Plotline points? How did the story sustain its incredible narrative drive?

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, January 28: General comments
Tuesday, January 29: Structure
Wednesday, January 30: Characters
Thursday, January 31: Themes
Friday, February 1: Dialogue

Here is an excerpt from a Big Think interview with Danny Rubin:

Question: Did you always conceive of it as a comedy?

Danny Rubin: Yeah, well I thought of the funny things first.  The very first thing I thought of was the date scene, being able to use your superior knowledge to pick up women.  As soon as I thought of that I knew I had a movie.  That just seemed to me so extraordinarily interest and fun and funny.  So, I guess I was approaching it in a comedic way, but it wasn’t a genre comedy.  I was thinking of it more as just a whimsical entertainment.

Question: Did it have to be Groundhog Day, or could it have been another holiday?

Danny Rubin: This is one of those things that just kind of fell together.  When I got the idea of a man repeating the same day over and over again, it was January 30th or 31st and so the first thing I thought of is, I’ve got to think of which day he repeats.  Which day is it?  And so, I just opened up the calendar and the first holiday day I came to was two days later, Groundhog Day and I was thinking about that saying, “Well, this is perfect.  It’s a completely unexploited holiday.  We can play it on TV every year like the Charlie Brown specials.”  But, other things started to make sense immediately too, like I wanted him to be a character who went somewhere and was in unfamiliar territory.  If he was on his home turf with his family and friends, it would be a completely different story.  And, by making it Groundhog Day, I thought, “Okay, so maybe he’s a weather man and he comes from Pittsburgh and he drove to Punxutawney for the ceremony and the groundhog’s name is Phil, so I named him Phil and a bunch of things just started falling together in that way.

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download Groundhog Day, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

January Script Reading & Analysis: “Groundhog Day”

January 6th, 2013 by

The GITS Script Reading & Analysis script for January is the 1993 comedy Groundhog Day, screenplay by Danny Rubin and Harold Ramis, story by Danny Rubin.

The movie won the BAFTA Film Award for best original screenplay.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, January 28: General comments
Tuesday, January 29: Structure
Wednesday, January 30: Characters
Thursday, January 31: Themes
Friday, February 1: Dialogue

Here is the original movie trailer:

This will be the 26th script in this series and each month in 2013, I’m going to pick a movie script for me to read and analyze, using the concepts in my character based approach to screenwriting. Of course, I invite everyone to participate in the discussion.

If you source any video or written interviews or behind-the-scenes features about Groundhog Day, especially anything focusing on the script, please post in comments.

“How to Write ‘Groundhog Day’” by screenwriter Danny Rubin is an excellent book, both for fans of the movie and for anyone interested in the craft of screenwriting. You may learn more about the Kindle edition here.

Join me this month as we read and analyze the script for Groundhog Day.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life” — Dialogue

December 21st, 2012 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life, screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern. The movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s dialogue. Lots of memorable lines in this script. What are your favorites?

There are tons of homages to It’s A Wonderful Life. Here is a fun one called “Franz Kafka’s It’s A Wonderful Life” written and directed by Peter Capaldi, and starring the brilliant Richard E. Grant:

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 on structure, go here.

For Part 3 on characters, go here.

For Part 4 on themes, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life” — Themes

December 20th, 2012 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life, screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern. The movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s themes. There are several of them. Which ones do you see at work in the story?

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download It’s A Wonderful Life, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 on structure, go here.

For Part 3 on characters, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life” — Characters

December 19th, 2012 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life, screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern. The movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s characters. Here is a list of the primary ones:

George Bailey

Mary Hatch

Henry F. Potter

Uncle Billy Bailey

Clarence

Ma Bailey

Ernie Bishop

Bert

Violet Bick

Mr. Gower

Sam Wainwright

Harry Bailey

Peter Bailey

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, December 17: General comments
Tuesday, December 18: Structure
Wednesday, December 19: Characters
Thursday, December 20: Themes
Friday, December 21: Dialogue

We will have another live TweetCast tonight, December 19 at 7PM Pacific. What’s a TweetCast? Everybody lines up a DVD, Netflix, or whatever of the movie, then hits play at precisely the top of the hour. So join me for that. Hashtag: #WONDERTC.

Here is the Wikipedia background information on the movie:

The original story “The Greatest Gift” was written by Philip Van Doren Stern in November 1939. After being unsuccessful in getting the story published, he decided to make it into a Christmas card, and mailed 200 copies to family and friends in December 1943.[18][N 5] The story came to the attention of RKO producer David Hempstead, who showed it to Cary Grant‘s Hollywood agent, and in April 1944, RKO Pictures bought the rights to the story for $10,000, hoping to turn the story into a vehicle for Grant.[20] RKO created three unsatisfactory scripts before shelving the planned movie, and Grant went on to make another Christmas movie staple, The Bishop’s Wife.[N 6][22]

At the suggestion of RKO studio chief Charles Koerner, Frank Capra read “The Greatest Gift” and immediately saw its potential. RKO, anxious to unload the project, in 1945 sold the rights to Capra’s production company, Liberty Films, which had a nine-film distribution agreement with RKO, for $10,000,[N 7] and threw in the three scripts for free.[18] Capra, along with writers Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett, with Jo Swerling, Michael Wilson, and Dorothy Parker brought in to “polish” the script,[24] turned the story and what was worth using from the three scripts into a screenplay that Capra would rename It’s a Wonderful Life.[18] The script underwent many revisions throughout pre-production and during filming.[25] Final screenplay credit went to Goodrich, Hackett and Capra, with “additional scenes” by Jo Swerling.

Seneca Falls, New York claims that when Frank Capra visited their town in 1945, he was inspired to model Bedford Falls after it. The town has an annual “It’s a Wonderful Life festival” in December.[26] In mid-2009, The Hotel Clarence opened in Seneca Falls, named for George Bailey’s guardian angel. On December 10, 2010, the “It’s a Wonderful Life” Museum opened in Seneca Falls, with Karolyn Grimes, who played Zuzu in the movie, cutting the ribbon.[27]

Both James Stewart, (from Indiana, Pennsylvania), and Donna Reed, (from Denison, Iowa), came from small towns. Stewart’s father ran a small hardware store where James worked for years. Reed demonstrated her rural roots by winning an impromptu bet with Lionel Barrymore when he challenged her to milk a cow on set.[28]

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download It’s A Wonderful Life, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For Part 2 on structure, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life” — Structure

December 18th, 2012 by

This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life, screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern. The movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Today we discuss the script’s structure. How would you break down the story’s plot? What do you think are the major Plotline points? How did the story sustain its incredible narrative drive?

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, December 17: General comments
Tuesday, December 18: Structure
Wednesday, December 19: Characters
Thursday, December 20: Themes
Friday, December 21: Dialogue

We will have another live TweetCast on Wednesday, December 19 at 7PM Pacific. What’s a TweetCast? Everybody lines up a DVD, Netflix, or whatever of the movie, then hits play at precisely the top of the hour. So join me for that.

Here is director Rob Reiner talking about his love for It’s A Wonderful Life:

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download It’s A Wonderful Life, read it, and join in the conversation.

For Part 1, a general discussion of the script, go here.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

GITS Script Reading & Analysis: “It’s A Wonderful Life”

December 17th, 2012 by

Welcome to the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, Volume 25. This week we will be analyzing the screenplay for the 1946 movie It’s A Wonderful Life, screenplay Frances Goodrich and Albert Hackett and Frank Capra, story by Philip Van Doren Stern. The movie was nominated for 5 Academy Awards.

You may download a copy of the script here.

Some reviews of the movie:

Roger Ebert [January 1, 1999]

The Guardian [December 13, 2007]

New York Times [December 23, 1946]

Variety [December 18, 1946]

The original movie trailer:

Let’s use this post today for your general reactions to the script.

Did you enjoy it? What aspects about it made the most impact on you? Would you consider it a ‘good read’? What struck you most about the writing?

Our schedule for discussion:

Monday, December 17: General comments
Tuesday, December 18: Structure
Wednesday, December 19: Characters
Thursday, December 20: Themes
Friday, December 21: Dialogue

We will have another live TweetCast on Wednesday, December 19 at 7PM Pacific. What’s a TweetCast? Everybody lines up a DVD, Netflix, or whatever of the movie, then hits play at precisely the top of the hour.

A scene from the movie:

If you know of any great behind-the-scenes videos or interviews about It’s A Wonderful Life, please post them in comments.

Remember: Reading scripts is one of the most important single things you can do to enhance your understanding of the craft of screenwriting. So download It’s A Wonderful Life and join us this week to analyze the script.

For all of the other screenplays and commentary in the GITS Script Reading & Analysis series, go here.

NOTE: THE USE OF THESE SCREENPLAYS IS FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.