Script To Screen: “Shakespeare in Love”

June 15th, 2016 by

The final scenes from the 1998 movie Shakespeare in Love, written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard.

IMDb plot summary: A young Shakespeare, out of ideas and short of cash, meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.

Here Viola, newly married, meets for the last time with her lover Will Shakespeare.

       INT. THE CURTAIN THEATRE. STAGE. DAY.

                           WILL
                     (heartbroken, testing her 
                      name)
                 My Lady Wessex?

       VIOLA nods, heartbroken too. For a long moment they 
       cannot say anything to each other. The she holds up 
       Wessex's purse.

                           VIOLA
                 A hired player no longer. Fifty 
                 pounds, Will, for the poet of true 
                 love.

                           WILL
                 I am done with theatre. The playhouse 
                 is for dreamers. Look where the dream 
                 has brought us.

                           VIOLA
                 It was we ourselves did that. And for 
                 my life to come I would not have it 
                 otherwise.

                           WILL
                 I have hurt you and I am sorry for it.

                           VIOLA
                 If my hurt is to be that you will 
                 write no more, then I shall be the 
                 sorrier.

       WILL looks at her.

                           VIOLA (CONT'D)
                 The Queen commands a comedy, Will for 
                 Twelfth Night.

                           WILL
                     (harshly)
                 A comedy! What will my hero be but the 
                 saddest wretch in the kingdom, sick 
                 with love?

                           VIOLA
                 An excellent beginning
                     (a beat)
                 Let him be…a duke. And your heroine?

                           WILL
                     (bitterly)
                 Sold in marriage and half way to 
                 America.

                           VIOLA
                     (adjusting)
                 At sea, then--a voyage to a new 
                 world?…she lands upon a vast and empty 
                 shore. She is brought to the 
                 duke…Orsino.

                           WILL
                     (despite himself)
                 Orsino…good name

                           VIOLA
                 But fearful of her virtue, she comes 
                 to him dressed as a boy

                           WILL
                     (Catching it)
                 and thus unable to declare her love

       Pause. They look at each other. Suddenly the conversation 
       seems to be about them.

                           VIOLA
                 But all ends well.

                           WILL
                 How does it?

                           VIOLA
                 I don't know. It's a mystery

       WILL half smiles. Then he's serious. They look deeply at 
       each other…and rush into each other's arm.

                           WILL (CONT'D)
                 You will never age for me, nor fade, 
                 nor die.

                           VIOLA
                 Nor you for me.

                           WILL
                 Good bye, my love, a thousand times 
                 good bye.

                           VIOLA
                 Write me well.

       She kisses him with finality. Then turns and runs from 
       him. WILL watches as she goes.

       INT. WILL'S ROOM. DAY.

       A blank page. A hand is writing: TWELFTH NIGHT. We see 
       WILL sitting at his table.

                           WILL (VO)
                 My story starts at sea…a perilous 
                 voyage to an unknown land…a shipwreck

       EXT. UNDERWATER. DAY.

       Two figures plunge into the water

                           WILL (VO)
                 the wild waters roar and heave…the 
                 brave vessel is dashed all to pieces, 
                 and all the helpless souls within her 
                 drowned

       INT. WILL'S ROOM. DAY.

       WILL at his table writing

                           WILL (VO)
                 all save one … a lady

       EXT. UNDERWATER. DAY.

       VIOLA in the water

                           WILL (VO)
                 whose soul is greater than the ocean … 
                 and her spirit stronger than the sea's 
                 embrace … not for her watery end, but 
                 a new life beginning on a stranger 
                 shore

       EXT. BEACH. DAY.

       VIOLA is walking up a vast and empty beach ….

                           WILL (VO CONTINUED)
                 It will be a love story … for she will 
                 be my heroine for all time

       INT. WILL'S ROOM. DAY.

       WILL looks up from the table.

                           WILL (VO CONTINUED)
                 and her name will be … Viola.

       He looks down at the paper, and writes: "Viola" Then: 
       "What country friends is this?"

       EXT. BEACH. DAY.

       DISSOLVE slowly to VIOLA, walking away up the beach 
       towards her brave new world.

                             THE END

Here is the movie version of the scene:

The translation of script to screen is precise, even to the point of shots back and forth between Will and “The Twelfth Night” images with Viola.

One wonderful grace note in the scene: The callback to the line: “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.” It’s the fourth time the line is uttered in the movie, the previous three times by Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush). The three previous iterations are used for comedic purposes. Here it takes on a bittersweet quality due to the reality of what’s transpiring – the final moments of the two being together.

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 series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

Script to Screen: “Three Kings”

June 8th, 2016 by

From the 1999 movie Three Kings, screenplay by David O. Russell, story by John Ridley.

IMDb plot summary: In the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War, 4 soldiers set out to steal gold that was stolen from Kuwait, but they discover people who desperately need their help.

     EXT. DESERT - DAY - HIGH WIDE SHOT

     'I Get Around' by The Beach Boys BLASTS as the Humvee speeds
     along. A big American flag flaps in the breeze from a pole at
     the back of the Hummer.

     The Humvee drives fast into the central square of a small
     village of low, sand-colored stucco buildings and shanties.

     Vig drives as the Humvee speeds around the town square,
     zooming past scared Shiites in black robes, a few skinny
     dogs, a few bewildered Iraqi soldiers.

                         VIG
               Where's the bunker?

                         ARCHIE GATES
               It should be right --

     He studies the map and points to a decayed green building.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               There.

     Vig jerks the wheel right.  They drive fast.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               No -- there.

     Archie points left. Vig jerks the wheel left, drives straight
     toward a low cement building with two Iraqi soldiers in front.

     Iraqi soldiers look scared as the Humvee drives up, like it's
     going to hit them, and stops, flag fluttering in the breeze.

     Vig stands and speaks into a megaphone.

                         VIG
               We are the Army of the United
               States of America. We are here to
               protect you. Remain calm.

     Troy and Doc leap from the Humvee with pistols drawn and
     their free hands held up in a 'halt' sign. The TWO IRAQI
     GUARDS look stunned as Troy and Doc simply take their machine
     guns and put the Iraqis face down on the ground. Troy and Doc
     pull out plastic twist hand-cuffs, as used in urban riots.

     Archie bounds forward holding up a thick white document.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               Orders from President Bush, step
               aside.

     Troy finishes handcuffing one of the Iraqi soldiers, as a
     gaunt mother, with a baby in her arms, opens her blouse,
     revealing her small breasts. Other peasants gather.

                         IRAQI MOTHER
               No milk. Baby milk.

     Troy looks shocked until Archie suddenly pushes him past the
     Iraqi mother and to the door of the bunker, which Doc holds.

     INT. BUNKER - DAY

     Five IRAQI SOLDIERS look disoriented and scared as they hold
     their hands up in the air.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               Do not panic.  Step outside --

     EXT. BUNKER - DAY

                         VIG
                      (into the megaphone)
               We are here for your protection
               and safety.

     Iraqi women and children kiss Vig's feet.

     The five Iraqi soldiers exit the bunker with their hands
     raised, and the starved Shiite civilians spit and throw
     stones at them while 'I Get Around' keeps playing.

                         VIG
               Ya'll be cool now, this is the
               U.S. Marines in charge here.

     INT. STAIRWELL - BUNKER

     Archie runs down the narrow stairs of the bunker, followed by
     Troy and Doc.

     INT. BASEMENT OF BUNKER - DAY

     Doc lashes an Iraqi's hands behind his back and cuffs him.

     Troy shoots the door lock with his pistol.  Then backs up and
     gives it a running shoulder. The door doesn't budge.

                         TROY
               Shit.

     He holds his shoulder in pain.  Archie kicks the door
     repeatedly.  Troy joins him, it finally flies open.

                         TROY
               Freeze.

     Troy is embraced by an Iraqi soldier, about 25.

                         FRIENDLY IRAQI
               I am love United States of
               Freedom. I am hate Saddam.

     Troy tries some karate moves, jerking his elbows to dislodge
     the Iraqi from the bear hug --

                         TROY
               Ya -- ya -- ha --

     Doc points his pistol in the Iraqi's face.

                         DOC
               Let him go.

     The Iraqi throws his hands in the air.

                         FRIENDLY IRAQI
               No problem, my friend.

     Archie goes to a series of WOODEN CRATES the size of file
     cabinets, where Doc helps Archie take off his back pack.
     Archie pulls out a bolt cutter and a pneumatic saw, both
     attached to a small air tank - and opens the crate, which is
     filled with hundreds of Kuwaiti passports.

                         FRIENDLY IRAQI
               You look for the chemical weapon?

                         TROY
               No. We look for the gold.

     They use the power tools to open the second crate -- also
     filled with hundreds of passports.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               Where's the gold?

                         FRIENDLY IRAQI
               They move the gold.

     Archie pulls out the infrared map and shows it to the Iraqi,
     who says nothing.

                         DOC
               Kill him.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               Not yet.

                         TROY
               Kill him now.

     They point their guns. It's a show. Archie holds the map.

                         ARCHIE GATES
               Where?

                         FRIENDLY IRAQI
                      (points to map)
               This bunker. I'll take you.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Some differences:

* Approaching the town, Gates has this additional line: “Go in fast, leave the safeties on, give ’em the blinding power of American sunshine.”

* The Iraqi mother does not expose her breasts.

* Archie’s line: “Orders from President Bush. Cease fire agreement.”

* The Iraqis note the soldiers are covered in blood commenting, “They’re butchers covered in blood.”

* An Iraqi with a bullhorn: “The Americans are here, so it’s safe to come out.”

* Iraqis approach: “We can fight Saddam.”

No real substantive changes, the chaos of the moment underscored by the irony of the line, “We are Americans. We are here to make you safe.” That line is delivered multiple times in a number of variations.

One final note: Notice how Russell uses underlines to emphasize dialogue. You can do that. Whatever conveys the moment best, you are free to do that.

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 series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

Script To Screen: “Wall Street”

May 18th, 2016 by

A scene from the 1987 movie Wall Street.

IMDb plot summary: A young and impatient stockbroker is willing to do anything to get to the top, including trading on illegal inside information taken through a ruthless and greedy corporate raider who takes the youth under his wing.

Here is the scene from the script:

	EXT. GEKKO'S BEACH HOUSE - DAWN

	The sky is still dark, the first rays of light coming up
	over the ocean. Gekko, a lonely figure in a windbreaker,
	restlessly prowls the edge of the beach, waves crashing
	around him. He's been up all night and has an exhausted,
	driven look as he whispers over the wind into the cellular
	phone...

				GEKKO
		Money never sleeps, pal. When I came
		in in '69, they traded six hours a
		day, now the clock don't stop,
		London's deregulated, the Orient is
		hungrier than us. Just let the
		money circle the world, sport,
		buying and selling, and if you're
		smart it comes back paying. I just
		made $800,000 in Hong Kong gold.
		It's been wired to you -- play with
		it. You done good, but you gotta
		keep doing good. I showed you how
		the game works, now school's out.

				BUD
			(protests)
		Mr. Gekko, I'm there for you 110%.

				GEKKO
		You don't understand. I want to be
		surprised...astonish me, sport, new
		info, don't care where or how you
		get it, just get it... My wife
		tells me you put a move on Darien.
		Here's some inside info for you.
		That Euroflash GQ guy she's going
		with's got big bucks but he's
		putting her feet to sleep. Exit
		visas are imminent. So don't lose
		your place in line.
			(gazing at the surf)
		Oh, jeez, I wish you could see this.
		The lights coming up over the water.
		I've never seen a painting that
		captures the beauty of the ocean at
		this moment.
			(suddenly fatigued)
		...an old Russian proverb - "a
		fisherman always sees another
		fisherman from afar." I like you
		sport, I ever tell you that...
		Gordon, call me Gordon from now on.

				BUD
			(off)
		...Gordon.

				GEKKO
		Yeah, I'm gonna make you rich, Bud
		Fox. I'm gonna make you rich enough
		you can afford a girl like Darien.
		Remember, power is the best
		aphrodisiac. This is your wake-up
		call. Go to work.

	He lets the phone drop to his side, staring glazed-eyed at
	the ocean.

Here is the scene from the movie:

A few cuts in dialogue:

* “When I came in in ’69, they traded six hours a day, now the clock don’t stop, London’s deregulated, the Orient is hungrier than us. Just let the money circle the world, sport, buying and selling, and if you’re smart it comes back paying.”

* “…an old Russian proverb – ‘a fisherman always sees another fisherman from afar.” I like you sport, I ever tell you that… Gordon, call me Gordon from now on.”

* “Remember, power is the best aphrodisiac.”

The first cut doesn’t feel necessary, particularly in that Gekko makes the same point about the liquidity of money in a more dramatic way later on.

The second cut – the bonding of Gekko and Bud – is implied in their conversation and the fact Gekko just put $800K into Bud’s account.

The third cut is also extraneous as the point is present in virtually every line of Gekko’s dialogue.

The most interesting thing about the scene is Gekko suddenly stopping himself as he witnesses the sunrise. It is a brief moment, but reflects a layer of his humanity we haven’t seen. This makes him a more complex and interesting Nemesis figure.

Takeaways: (1) Cut dialogue which conveys themes or dynamics already present either through other dialogue or a character’s actions. (2) Find the humanity in your Nemesis characters to make them something more than a stereotype.

If you have any thoughts on Wall Street, head to comments and let’s hear them.

Script To Screen: “Unforgiven”

May 4th, 2016 by

From the 1992 movie Unforgiven [written by David Webb Peoples] the movie’s Final Struggle sequence.

Setup: Retired gunslinger William Munny takes on one last job… and this is the finale.

VIEW on Little Bill in the crowded bar and he is shouting to
make himself heard over the din.

LITTLE BILL
Alright, I'm gonna say just one more
time so it's all clear an' then don't
ask me no more.

The place is packed with tired, dusty men and they are not
really jubilant so much as they are excited by the hysteria
of events.

LITTLE BILL
(continuing)
Now each of you that posse'd today
has got one drink comin' off the
county budget...

THIRSTY
Yahoo.

LITTLE BILL
...an' whoever rode yesterday, gets
one drink for that...

PADDY
Yippee.

EGGS
I told yuh two, I...

LITTLE BILL
Hold it hold it. After them two,
it's outta your own pocket... hear
me, Skinny? ...an' we're pullin' out
early tomorrow an' chase these fellas
clear to Texas so I wouldn't spend
much of your own money.

There is a general whoop and hubbub as Little Bill turns
back to his conversation at the bar with Charley, Fatty,
Clyde, Andy and WW Beauchamp.

LITTLE BILL
Now if we divide up into four parties
an' hit all the farms an' trails in
a circle, we're bound to find some
one who seen them skunks an'...

Little Bill is suddenly conscious of his own loud voice in a
sudden silence that has swept the bar like a brushfire and
turning he sees what everybody is staring at.

Munny, with his ten-gauge shotgun leveled from the shoulder,
is standing thirty feet away in the doorway. Taking a couple
of sideways steps to get the door from behind his back and
sweeping the twin barrels in an ominous arc, he surveys the
scene.

MUNNY
(a little drunk)
Which fucker owns this shithole?

Nobody says a thing. Skinny stares pop-eyed from behind the
bar and the sweat starts on his forehead and Little Bill is
thinking coolly and everybody else is swallowing hard and
looking at the shotgun.

MUNNY
(to Fatty)
You there, fat man, speak up.

Fatty gulps and then Skinny screws up his courage and steps
from behind the bar and gives it every bit of dignity his
fear will permit.

SKINNY
I... I own this establishment. I
bought it from Greely for a thous...

MUNNY
(to the men round
Skinny)
Better step clear, boys.

And Skinny looks from side to side as people step away from
him and he wants to say something desperately, he wants to
live, he wants...

LITTLE BILL
Hold on, mist...

BAH-WHOOM! Munny fires and smoke belches and...

Skinny is blown back against the wall and falls to the floor
a bloody mess and...

Little Bill is reaching for the Spencer which is leaning
against the bar near his leg but he freezes because...

Munny has turned the shotgun on him and Munny sees Ned's
Spencer there and his eyes show how he feels about it.

For a moment while the smoke clears the bar is silent and
there are nervous glances cast at the bloody body of Skinny
but Little Bill keeps his eyes on Munny.

LITTLE BILL
Well sir... You are a cowardly
sonofabitch because you have just
shot down an unarmed man.

It has become a very formal moment and there are, figuratively
speaking, only two people in the room, Munny and Little
Bill... and WW Beauchamp is watching them, scared to death,
but this is it, what all those Easterners dreamed about, the
showdown in the saloon.

MUNNY
(the shotgun pointed
right at Little Bill)
He should have armed himself if he
was gonna decorate his saloon with
the body of my friend.

LITTLE BILL
I guess you are Three-Fingered Jack
out of Missouri, killer of women and
children.

MUNNY
(a little drunkenly)
I have done that... killed women and
children... I have killed most
everything that walks or crawls an'
now I have come to kill you, Little
Bill, for what you done to Ned.
(to the others)
Now step aside. boys.

And as the deputies nervously move aside Little Bill helps
to isolate himself by stepping forward boldly.

LITTLE BILL
He's got one barrel left, gentlemen.
After he has used it, pull your
pistols and shoot him down like the
cowardly, drunken scoundrel he is.

Little Bill looks back at Munny bravely and...

Munny looks down the barrel at Little Bill and after a tense
moment he pulls the trigger.

CLICK. The hammer falls but it is a misfire and what happens
next happens in maybe five seconds as all hell breaks loose.

LITTLE BILL
(drawing)
Misfire! Kill the sonofabitch!

And Little Bill aims carefully and...

Munny hurls the shotgun at him and...

BLAM!... Little Bill fires wildly as the shotgun hits him
and...

Clyde has his pistol out and is pointing it at Munny and...

Munny is pulling the pistol from his own belt and he drops
to one knee and...

BLAM!... Clyde fires and misses and...

Little Bill is about to squeeze the trigger when...

BLAM!... Munny shoots him and...

BLAM!... Little Bill shoots just as he is hit in the chest
and...

BLAM! BLAM!... Fatty fires wildly and...

Munny is aiming too and BLAM!...

Clyde gets it in the face and...

BLAM!... BLAM!... Fatty isn't even aiming while...

Andy aims carefully, he can kill Munny but...

Munny turns and points his weapon at Andy and...

Instead of firing Andy panics and tries to turn his body
sideways to ward off the blow and...

BLAM!... Munny fires and...

Andy gets it high in the rib cage and...

Charley turns and runs for the back and...

BLAM! BLAM!... Fatty is backing up and firing from the hip
and then he turns to run and...

Munny aims deliberately from one knee and BLAM!...

Fatty goes down, shot in the back...

And suddenly... there is a terrible silence that is broken
only by the awful, dying groans of Clyde and the coughing of
the bystanders hiding behind tables and chairs in the thick
black smoke and...

Munny is still down on one knee pointing his pistol and
looking through the thick smoke for someone to shoot but it
seems there are no threats left.

MUNNY
Every asshole that doesn't want to
get shot best clear out the back
quick.

And they scramble over each other dashing toward the Billiard
Room and Munny stands up and looks around and he looks at
Clyde who is groaning, his face covered with blood and
everyone else, Little Bill, Andy and Fatty are still, and
then Fatty seems to move and Munny levels his pistol and
what happens is WW crawls out from half-under Fatty and WW
is covered with blood and he is shaking like a leaf.

WW
I... I... think I'm... shot.

MUNNY
You ain't shot.

WW
(seeing the pistol)
P-p-p-please, I'm not armed.
(as Munny lowers the
pistol, WW looks
around)
M-m-my G-god. You killed... Little
Bill.

MUNNY
(suspicious)
You sure you ain't armed?

WW
I never c-c-carry arms. I'm... a
writer.

MUNNY
A writer? What do you write... letters
an' such?

WW
B-b-books.
(amazed)
You... you killed five men...
singlehanded.

MUNNY
(wearily)
Yeah.

Munny walks over to the bar, keeping his eye suspiciously on
WW, and reaches for a bottle with his left hand. The hand is
shaking like palsy and he tilts the bottle and drinks sloppily
with effort, the pistol still in his right hand.

WW
Wh-wh-who did you kill first?

MUNNY
Huh?

WW
(reciting)
Wh-wh-when confronted by superior
numbers, the experienced gunfighter
will fire on the best shots first.

MUNNY
(drinking)
Yeah?

Unnoticed on the floor, Little Bill is conscious though blood
is coming out of his mouth and he has been written off. One
hand is shifting on his pistol and he can hear Clyde moaning
sporadically.

WW
Little Bill told me that. You killed
him first, didn't you?

On the floor, Little Bill is fighting for consciousness,
fingering his pistol.

MUNNY
I was lucky in the order.
(bitterly)
I always been lucky killin' folks.

WW
Who was next? Clyde? Or was it...?

MUNNY
(suddely ominous,
pistol pointing)
I could tell you who was last, mister.

WW's eyes pop as he gets the idea and he backs up fast, and
then he turns and bolts out the back, and watching him go,
Munny turns his back on the fallen body of Little Bill.

Little Bill, on the floor, raises up his pistol in his shaking
hand and aims at Munny's back maybe six feet away and he is
shaking bad as he draws the hammer back and...

Munny hears the click and he turns and sees Little Bill aiming
but it is too late and...

BLAM! Smoke and fire from Little Bill's pistol and Little
Bill's arm collapses from the effort and the pistol falls
with a bang.

MUNNY
Missed again, asshole.

And Munny steps over to him and kicks the pistol away from
Little Bill's outstretched hand. Little Bill is bleeding
from the mouth having taken a shot in the lung and he is
very weak and all he can do is look up at Munny and speak
weakly.

LITTLE BILL
I don't... deserve this... to die
this way. I was... building a house.

MUNNY
(aiming his pistol
point blank)
"Deserve" don't mean shit, Little
Bill.

LITTLE BILL
(the pistol in his
face)
I'll see you... in hell, you three
fingered asshole.

BLAM! Munny shoots Little Bill and then he looks around and
Clyde is still groaning and that is the only sound. Then,
suddenly, he is all business. He walks quickly over to Clyde
and shoots him once with the Spencer and the groaning stops.

Then he goes to Little Bill's body and pokes around in the
pockets and pulls out some shells for the Spencer.

He shoves those in his pocket and he goes to the bar and
picks up the bottle of whiskey and walks over to the door.

Standing to one side, he kicks it open. Then he sets down
the rifle and the bottle and starts to reload the Schofield
and while he loads it he shouts out the door.

MUNNY
I'm comin' outta here... an' any
fucker I see out there, I'm gonna
kill him... an' any fucker takes a
shot at me, I ain't just gonna kill
him, but I'm gonna kill his wife an'
all his friends an' burn his fucking
house, hear?

The pistol is loaded and Munny sticks it in his belt and he
takes a long pull on the whiskey bottle and wipes the dribble
from his chin. Then he picks up the rifle in the other hand
and looks out the door.

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 terrific scene from Unforgiven.

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.

[Originally posted November 23, 2011]

Script To Screen: “Rushmore”

April 15th, 2016 by

The revenge sequence from Rushmore (written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson).

Setup: Vying for the affections of Rosemary, Max and Herman decide to go after each other.

INT. HOTEL ROOM. DAY

The living room of Mr. Blume's suite. Mr. Blume is dressed in a 
bathrobe with the Bilbly-Flickenger stitched on the pocket. He 
sits at his table having breakfast and reading the newspaper. 
There is a little basket in front of him with a jar of hone in it. 
A note attached to the jar says, "Enjoy your stay."

A little bug flies around Mr. Blume's head. He swats it away and 
keeps reading.

Two more bugs come buzzing around him. Mr. Blume looks up and 
frowns. They're bees. Mr. Blume slaps at his neck and jumps to his 
feet as he gets stung.

MR. BLUME
Shit!

Bees are circling all over the room. Mr. Blume looks around 
frantically. He sees something at the bottom of the front door. 
It is a little plastic tube with bees crawling out of it and taking 
off.

INT. BASEMENT. DAY

Max comes out of the freight elevator wearing a red room service 
jacket with the Bilby-Flickenger stitched on the pocket. He has a 
wooden box with Rushmore Beekeepers stenciled on it. Max throws the 
jacket in a laundry cart and goes out the back door.

EXT. GROVER CLEVELAND HIGH SCHOOL. DAY

Mr. Blume gets out of his car in the driveway at Grover Cleveland. He 
opens the trunk and takes out a set of steel cable cutters. He goes 
over to the bike racks and cuts the lock off Max's ten-speed.

Mr. Blume lays the bicycle on the ground in front of his car and runs 
over it. Then he throws the car in reverse and goes over it again. He 
picks up the destroyed bicycle and takes it back to the bike racks and 
wraps the lock back around it.

The small Indian groundskeeper we saw earlier on the roof is driving by 
in a Volkswagen Beetle. He frowns at Mr. Blume. Mr. Blume hurries back 
to his car.

EXT. BLUME INTERNATIONAL CONCRETE. DAY

The front gates of the concrete plant. Max rides up on an old 
grandmothers' bicycle with fenders and a handlebar basket. He's got a 
black duffel bag strapped to his back.

Max waves to the SECURITY GUARD. The guard waves back:

Max rides onto the lot and pulls over next to Mr. Blume's Bentley. He 
leans his bike against the car door. He unzips his duffel bag and slides 
underneath the car.

EXT. RUSHMORE. DAY

Mr. Blume pulls into the driveway to pick-up the twins from school. 
There is a lot of traffic and kids are running around everywhere. Mr. 
Blume taps the brakes. Nothing happens. He flies toward the back of a 
parked station wagon.

He jerks the steering wheel and bounces up onto the sidewalk. The car 
pops through a wooden fence and rolls across the grass into the 
quadrangle.

The Indian groundskeeper is raking leaves as the car goes past him. He 
watches as it crunches over some bushes and scrapes against a stone 
wall. It rolls to a stop in the middle of the quad.

Mr. Blume gets out of the car and looks at the damage. He looks over at 
the white-haired Indian groundskeeper.

The groundskeeper goes back to raking.

EXT. PARKING LOT. DAY

Kids watch from classrooms up and down the hall as Max is escorted away 
in handcuffs by the POLICE. Max has a hardened expression on his face.

Here is the sequence 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 Rushmore.

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 series where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

[Originally posted February 15, 2012]

Script To Screen: “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl”

March 25th, 2016 by

This is an unusual Script To Screen entry. The screenplay is an early draft of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [screenplay by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio, screen story by Ted Elliott & Terry Rossio and Stuart Beattie and Jay Wolpert] with an ending that is significantly different than the movie.

EXT. PORT ROYAL - FORT CHARLES - DAY

Close on: Will's face, stoic, staring forward. He stands
straight and unmoving. Around him are members of the Royal
Navy, standing before a group of witnesses from town.

It is the courtyard on top of Fort Charles. A trial is underway
-- with Will as the defendant.

                     NORRINGTON
          ... and though I do say so with
          regret, the law is clear.  The
          penalty for piracy is death by
          hanging.

In the crowd, Elizabeth squeezes the hand of her father, Swann.
She lets go as Swann stands.

                     SWANN
          By your leave, I wish to speak on
          behalf of the boy.
               (a glance at Elizabeth)
          It is clear that these deeds were
          performed out of a sincere desire
          to do good, at great personal risk.
          It seems to me, that in rare
          occasion where the right course is
          committing an act of piracy, then
          an act of piracy is the right
          course!
               (cheers of approval)
          So in my capacity as Governor, I
          intend to grant a pardon to --

                     GILLETTE
          Sir!

All eyes turn. Gillette stands at the top of a stairway.

                     GILLETTE (CONT'D)
          Jack and his crew have escaped!
               (gasps from the crowd)
          There was no damage to the cell ...
          they must have been set free.

Will and Elizabeth exchange looks. You? Not me, you? No, not me
either! Swann notices something on the parapet, points --

                     SWANN
          The Black Pearl!

People rush to the parapet. Sure enough, below in the bay are
the distinctive black sails of the Pearl. The ship cuts through
the waters very close to the point --

-- where the gallows of the pirates are. Suddenly Jack appears,
on the point; he swings off the one empty gallows, across and
down onto the ship's rigging as it passes.

                     GILLETTE
          Sir!  Shall I break out the
          cannons? 

                     NORRINGTON
          I don't think that will be
          necessary.

Norrington raises his hand ... twirls a key on his finger.

                     NORRINGTON (CONT'D)
          A day's head start.  That's all he
          gets.

Will, Elizabeth and Swann look out toward the ocean --

EXT. BLACK PEARL - STERN DECK - DAY

Jack monkeys down the rigging. AnaMaria is at the wheel.

                     ANAMARIA
          Captain Sparrow -- the Black Pearl
          is yours!

Jack runs a hand lovingly along the rail, then takes the wheel.
It feels good -- right -- in his hands. He enjoys it, and then
shifts to 'Captain' mode.

                     JACK
          AnaMaria, trim the mainsail!

                     ANAMARIA
          Aye, aye, sir!

                     JACK
          Mr. Gibbs, organize a cleaning
          detail -- you and Cotton. I want
          every inch of the Pearl spic-and-
          span and ship-shape!

Gibbs actually stomps the deck, executes a salute.

Jack stands at the wheel: he's got his ship back, and all is
right with the world. He begins to unconsciously hum: "Yo, ho,
yo, ho, a pirate's life for me ..."

He realizes what he's doing and smiles, the orchestra takes
over as the Black Pearl sails for uncharted waters ... and we
FADE UP large words in script:

                          THE END

FADE OUT and CREDITS ROLL.

And here are the scenes in the movie:

A lot of changes, so let’s ask the basic question: Why? How are the scenes in the movie an improvement over the script?

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 series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

[Originally posted March 28, 2012]

Script To Screen: “The Third Man”

December 4th, 2015 by

Occasionally I like to feature excerpts from screenplays from eras gone by. First I happen to love all movies, including old ones. Second it’s interesting to compare how screenplay style has changed over the years.

Today we take a look at a scene from the 1949 movie The Third Man, screen play by Graham Greene.

Logline: Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, black-market opportunist Harry Lime.

This is the end scene, one of the most memorable in cinema history.

MED. SHOT - PRIEST

with graveyard attendant and his assistant beside him.

                         PRIEST
            Herr gib ihnen die ewige ruh und
            das ewige licht leutche ihnen. Herr
            lass sie ruhen in frieden. Amen. In
            namen des vaters des sohnes und des
            heiligen geistes. Amen.

He sprinkles spoonful of soil on the grave, then moves to
exit CR. Music starts.

MED. SHOT - MARTINS

CL f.g. - Anna facing the new grave. She takes spoon of
earth from graveyard attendant and sprinkles it on grave -
moving to exit CR.

CLOSEUP - MARTINS

Calloway walks up to him from behind.

LONG SHOT - THE GRAVEYARD

with Harry's new grave in f.g. Martins CL - Calloway's back
to camera. They move downstage - Martins replacing his hat.

LONG SHOT - ROAD

CR of the graveyard, Anna walking upstage, back to camera.
She exits CR.

MED. LONG SHOT - JEEP

in R f.g. Calloway enters it RL. Martins walks round the
back of it, looking at watch - then off CL, after the
departing Anna.

                         CALLOWAY
            What time is it?

                         MARTINS
            Two thirty.

LONG SHOT - ANNA

walking upstage, back to camera.

CLOSE SHOT - CALLOWAY

seated in R profile in jeep - Martins gets in LR, beside him.
The jeep drives out CR.

                         CALLOWAY
            I'll have to step on it, if you're
            going to catch that plane.

CLOSE TWO SHOT - MARTINS

CL and Calloway CR - riding in the open jeep LR. CAMERA
TRACKS IN to single CU of Martins looking off R for Calloway.
He looks back over his shoulder.

                         MARTINS
            Calloway, can't you do something
            about Anna?

                         CALLOWAY (O.S.)
            I'll do what I can, if she'll let me.

LONG SHOT - ANNA

walking along the street - CAMERA DOLLYING BACK as from
Martins' eye line in jeep. She gets further and further away.

CLOSE TWO SHOT - MARTINS AND CALLOWAY

seated in jeep, driving RL.

                         MARTINS
            Wait a minute - let me out.

                         CALLOWAY
            Well, there's not much time.

                         MARTINS
            One can't just leave - please.

MED. SHOT - JEEP

drives up to curb LR - Martins climbs out near side to
camera and CAMERA PANS RL as he moves to back of jeep and
takes out his grip and turns away to exit CL. We HOLD
Calloway in back of jeep, looking after him.

                         CALLOWAY
            Be sensible, Martins.

                         MARTINS
            I haven't got a sensible name,
            Calloway.

LONG SHOT

along the avenue of trees, Anna in far b.g., walking
downstage. Martins enters from CR f.g., moving upstage, back
to camera. He puts down his grip on a cart in L f.g. and
stands waiting.

CLOSE SHOT - CALLOWAY

in jeep looking back over his shoulder off L for Martins. He
starts to drive away upstage.

LONG SHOT - MARTINS

in L f.g., Anna in the middle of the road, coming downstage
toward camera. She passes Martins without a glance, and
continues on, looking straight ahead of her and out of
picture CR - Martins takes out a cigarette and lights it.

                                            FADE OUT

                           THE END

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Love that last LONG SHOT: “She passes Martins without a glance.” Picture worth a thousand words.

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 The Third Man.

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 series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

UPDATE: John Geraci has an excellent post here analyzing The Third Man.

[Originally posted July 10, 2013]

Script To Screen: “Whiplash”

November 18th, 2015 by

Leave it to the innovative John August to come up with an even better way to compare script pages to what appears on the screen. Check out this video John put together for a scene from the brilliant movie Whiplash:

It’s always fascinating to see what’s included… what’s cut… what’s changed when comparing script to screen versions. You can take a whack at reverse engineering, put yourself in the mindset of the director and editor and try to think of why what’s on the screen is different or the same as on the page.

Hey, why don’t we all flood the Twitter feed for @JohnAugust and beg him to do more of this?

And while you’re at it, you can check out the long-time Script To Screen series I’ve run here on the blog. Reading scripts while watching movies is a great, great learning resource.

Here is a link to John’s YouTube Channel.

Script To Screen: “Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)”

September 23rd, 2015 by

So many great monologues in the 2014 movie Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), but this one may be the best.

Setup: Under enormous personal pressure and his Broadway play on the verge of imploding, Riggan (Michael Keaton) busts his daughter Sam (Emma Stone), who has been in rehab, for smoking pot.

RIGGAN: It’s important to me! Alright? Maybe not to you, or your cynical playmates whose sole ambition is to end up going viral and who, by the way, will only be remembered as the generation that finally stopped talking to one another. But to me… To me… This is– God. This is my career, this is my chance to do some work that actually means something.

SAM: Means something to who? You had a career before the third comic book movie, before people began to forget who was inside the bird costume. You’re doing a play based on a book that was written 60 years ago, for a thousand rich, old white people whose only real concern is gonna be where they go to have their cake and coffee when it’s over. Nobody gives a shit but you. And let’s face it, Dad, it’s not for the sake of art. It’s because you just want to feel relevant again. Well, there’s a whole world out there where people fight to be relevant every day. And you act like it doesn’t even exist! Things are happening in a place that you willfully ignore, a place that has already forgotten you. I mean who are you? You hate bloggers. You make fun of twitter. You don’t even have a Facebook page. You’re the one who doesn’t exist. You’re doing this because you’re scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter. And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important. You’re not important. Get used to it.

Silence. Riggan seems devastated, and Sam can see that.

SAM: Dad…

She looks at him sympathetically, but not knowing what to say… exits.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Sam’s monologue in the movie is almost verbatim per the script with a few tiny variations here and there. One notable addition? Instead of “I mean who are you,” in the movie the line is, “I mean who the fuck are you?” Yes, sometimes the F-word packs a punch and as the only F-bomb in this side, it does precisely that.

What I really want to zero in on is the transition in the scene from Sam’s hot anger through all the range of emotions expressed in Emma Stone’s face as she realizes that what she has said, while true in many respects, is incredibly hurtful. Watch that part of the scene starting here until its conclusion. That is what an actor can do with this scene description:

Silence. Riggan seems devastated, and Sam can see that. She looks at him sympathetically, but not knowing what to say… exits.

What if you were writing this on spec? No actors attached. You weren’t set up to direct. And you wanted to convey more specifically what Sam’s character was experiencing in this moment…

How would you write that scene description?

You may download the script for Birdman here.

You may read the analysis we did on the Birdman script here.

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.

Script To Screen: “Midnight Cowboy”

September 18th, 2015 by

The last scenes from the 1969 movie Midnight Cowboy, screenplay by Waldo Salt, novel by James Leo Herlihy.

IMDb plot summary: A naive hustler goes to New York to seek personal fortune but in the process finds himself a new friend.

Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) and Joe (Jon Voight) are en route to Florida. However Ratso’s health has been deteriorating…

INT. GREYHOUND BUS - DAY

Ratso's eyes squint in a dazed half-sleep. Joe leans across
to pull down the shade. He hesitates a moment, watching...

... past his reflection, a group of young men on their way to
work, carrying lunch pails, dressed exactly as Joe is now
dressed...

... then Joe lowers the blind and seats himself. Ratso nods
slightly, his voice practically inaudible.

			RATSO 
	Thanks, Joe.

			JOE 
	Shee-it, you know, I got this thing
	all figured out, Ratso. I mean
	Rico. When we get to Miami, what
	I'll do, I'll go to work. I gotta
	do that, 'cause see, I ain't no
	kind of a hustler. I ain't even any
	goddam good as a bum. I'm a
	nothing, that's what I am. So
	reckon I'd better go to work and
	get me a goddam job. Okay?

Joe glances at Ratso, but there is no response.
Surreptitiously, Joe takes out a cigarette, turns his face
away from Ratso and lights it, hiding it cupped in his hand
as he smokes.

			JOE (CONT'D)
	Yeah, guess that's what I'm gonna
	do.

They ride for a moment in semi-darkness, Joe smoking, looking
at the other people on the bus, brighter without the shades
down. Joe turns, checking the blanket around Ratso, noticing
that Ratso is sitting in a peculiarly stiff, awkward
position. Joe leans over to straighten Ratso's head, blocking
our view for a moment. Then Joe leans back, frowning,
thoughtful. We still do not see Ratso's face. Joe rises
slowly, starting forward in the bus...

... passing an older couple, a schoolgirl, two ladies with
straw hats, a young man trying to read, pausing when he
reaches...

... the DRIVER, staring out at the Sunshine Parkway with the
Driver, leaning over so he won't have to speak too loudly.

			DRIVER
	Yes, sir?

			JOE,
	My friend's dead in the back seat.

			DRIVER
	Your friend's what in the back
	seat?

			JOE
	Dead. Dead as a doornail.

			DRIVER
	Is this some kind of...

He glances at Joe, then pulls off the road and stands up.

			DRIVER (CONT'D)
	Okay, folks, everything's fine.
	Nothing to worry about.

The passengers crane their necks as Joe follows the Driver to
the rear of the bus. The passengers at the rear are staring
ahead, trying not to see what is going on. The Driver touches
Ratso, straightens, touches his hat, but doesn't remove it.

			DRIVER (CONT'D)
	Is he kin to you?

Joe nods no.

			DRIVER (CONT'D)
	Don't you want to close his eyes?

			JOE
	Close them?

			DRIVER 
	Just reach over and close them.
	That's all.

Joe closes Ratso's eyes.

			DRIVER (CONT'D)
	I guess we'll just drive on, right?
	Nothing else to do.

			JOE 
	No, sir. Not till Miami. I'll see
	to burying then.

The Driver moves to the front and turns to the passengers.

			DRIVER
	Just a little sickness, folks,
	nothing serious. We'll be in
	Miami...
		(looks at watch)
	... in forty minutes.

INT. GREYHOUND BUS - DAY

Joe sits stiffly, very frightened, as the bus starts on. Then
he glances at Ratso, frowning, reaches out an arm and puts it
around Ratso, settling back, staring straight ahead.

				  THE END

Here is the movie version of the scene (starting at 2:28 of the clip below):

What strikes me the most is how Voight takes this scene direction — Joe sits stiffly, very frightened… reaches an arm and puts it around Ratso, settling back, staring straight ahead — and imbues the moment with such incredible emotion. You can just see the flood of confused feelings coursing through his body as he rides toward an uncertain future.

Of course, this reminds me of another ending scene in which Dustin Hoffman rides a bus:

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.