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.

Script To Screen: “Alien”

August 28th, 2015 by

Here is a memorable scene from “Alien” (1970), screenplay Dan O’Bannon, story by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

Setup: There is an alien on board the spaceship Nostromo. The ship’s captain Dallas has entered the air shaft to find the alien and kill it using a flamethrower. The other crew members are tracking Dallas’ location:

               
        INT. AIR SHAFT

        Completely dark.
        Dallas turns on his helmet light.
        Flips switch on throat mike.

                                 DALLAS
                  Do you receive me.  Ripley.
                  Parker.  Lambert.

        INT. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE AREA

        The hum of vast cooling plants.
        Large air shafts run off in different directions.
        Parker and Lambert stand ready by a duct.
        Lambert hits the wall amp button.

                                 LAMBERT
                  We're in position.  I'll try
                  and pick you up on the tracker.

        Parker hefts his flamethrower.

                                 DALLAS
                         (voice over)
                  Parker, if it tries to come
                  out by you, make sure you drive
                  it back in.  I'll push it forward.

                                 PARKER
                  Right.

        INT. AIR LOCK VESTIBULE

        Near the starboard air lock.
        Ripley pops open the hatch.
        The air lock now open and ready.
        She moves to the air duct opening.

                                 RIPLEY
                  Air lock open.

                                 DALLAS
                         (voice over)
                  Ready.

                                 RIPLEY
                  Ready.

        INT. AIR SHAFT

        Dallas begins to crawl forward.
        The tunnel is narrow...
        Only a foot or two wider than his shoulders.
   
                                 DALLAS
                  I'm under way.

        Turns a corner.
        Several more tight turns.
        Instinctively Dallas pulls back.
        Raises the flamethrower.
        Fires a blast around the corner into the darkness.
        It roars loudly in the confined tube.
        Smoke drifts back into his face.

        INT. MAINTENANCE LEVEL

        A large rectangular duct in one wall.

                                 PARKER
                  That's where it's got to come
                  out, if it leaves the main shaft.

        He throws a switch.
        A metal pane rises and seals off the opening.

                                 LAMBERT
                  Let's keep it open.  I'd like
                  to know if anything's coming.

        Reluctantly, Parker again throws the switch and raises the
        metal pane.

        INT. AIR LOCK VESTIBULE

        Ripley waiting.

        INT. AIR SHAFT

        Dallas still crawling on hands and knees.
        Ahead the shaft takes an abrupt downward turn.
        He moves toward the corner.
        Fires another blast from the flamethrower.
        Then starts crawling down, head first.

        INT. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE AREA

        Lambert sees something on the tracker.
   
                                 LAMBERT
                  Beginning to get a reading on
                  you.

        INT. AIR SHAFT

        The shaft makes yet another turn.
        Puts Dallas into an almost immobilized position.
   
        INT. FOOD STORAGE LOCKER NUMBER 12

        Ash staring at the ventilator opening.                                                           

        INT. AIR SHAFT

        Dallas against a wall of the shaft.
        Clutching his flamethrower.
        Whispers into his throat mike.

                                 DALLAS
                  Ripley.

        INT. AIR LOCK VESTIBULE

                                 RIPLEY
                  Read you clear.

        INT. AIR SHAFT

                                 DALLAS
                  I don't think this shaft goes
                  much farther... It's getting hot
                  in here.

        He readies the flamethrower.

        INT. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE AREA

        Parker readies his weapon.

        INT. AIR SHAFT - DOUBLE-TIERED PASSAGEWAY

        The air shaft tributary opens into a larger two-tier air
        tunnel.
        Dallas crawls out and stands.
        Moves to a catwalk floor.  Looks about.
        Moves forward.  Reaches a repair junction.
        Sits.

        His feet dangle beneath the catwalk floor to the next level.

                                 DALLAS
                  Lambert, what kind of reading
                  are you getting.

        INT. MAINTENANCE LEVEL

        Lambert huddled over her tracker.
        Puzzled.

                                 LAMBERT
                  I'm not sure.  There seems
                  to be some kind of double
                  image.

        INT. AIR SHAFT DOUBLE-TIERED PASSAGEWAY

        Dallas sitting.
        His feet still dangling in the dark beneath the catwalk.

                                 DALLAS
                  It may be interference.  I'll
                  push on ahead.

        Dallas begins to rise.
        From below, a gentle movement toward the hanging feet.
        A hand reaches up.
        Misses his leg as Dallas moves ahead.

        Further on.

                                 DALLAS
                  Lambert, am I coming in any
                  clearer.

                                 LAMBERT
                         (voice over)
                  It's clear all right, but I'm
                  still getting two blips.
                         (pause)
                  I'm not sure which one is
                  which.

        Dallas stops.
        Turns around.
        Looks back down through the catwalk.
        Lowers the nose of the flamethrower, his finger on the
        trigger.
        From behind him, the hand reaches up.
        The Alien is the front signal.

        INT. AIR LOCK VESTIBULE

        Ripley bends forward.
        Hears the sounds of the struggle...
        And Dallas' screams.
        She cries out.

                                 RIPLEY
                  Dallas...Dallas...

        INT. EQUIPMENT MAINTENANCE AREA

        Lambert and Parker.
        Hearing it all.

                                 RIPLEY
                         (voice over)
                  Oh my God.

        Then silence.

And here is the scene in the movie:

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 July 13, 2011]

Script To Screen: “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”

July 22nd, 2015 by

The Coen brothers’ interpretation of “The Odyssey,” the wonderful 2000 movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? [written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, epic poem by Homer].

Setup: Three escaped convicts — Everett, Pete, and Delmar — are on the run when…

               We can faintly hear a high, unearthly singing. Barely human, 
               the sound seems to agitate Pete. He looks desperately out 
               the window.

               His hinging point-of-view shows, down the declivity from the 
               road and half hidden by trees, three women washing clothes 
               in the river.

               Pete's reaction is enormous. He jams a fist into his mouth, 
               eyes widening. He yanks the fist out and screams:

                                     PETE
                         PULL OVER!

               Everett, startled, does so.

               EXT.

               Before the car has even come to a stop Pete's door flies 
               open and he is stumbling down the bank to the river.

               Everett and Delmar follow more casually, Everett chuckling.

                                     EVERETT
                         I guess o' Pete's got the itch.

               AT THE RIVER

               The unearthly singing, full volume here, comes from the three 
               women, beautiful but marked by an otherworldly langor as 
               they dunk clothes in the stream and beat them against rocks.

               Pete is all awkward smiles and deep, burning eyes:

                                     PETE
                         Howdy do, ladies. Name of Pete!

               Strangely, the three laundresses do not answer, though they 
               do smile at him as they continue to sing.

               Pete tries again as he reaches into their laundry basket:

                                     PETE
                         Maybe I could help you with the, uh-

               He realizes he is holding ladies' undergarments.

                                     PETE
                         Ahem. I, uh...

               He drops them back in the basket.

                                     PETE
                         I don't believe I've, uh, heard that 
                         song before...

               Everett and Delmar have arrived; Everett is loud and jovial:

                                     EVERETT
                         Aintcha gonna innerduce us, Pete?

               Pete's eyes stay glued on the women as he hisses out of the 
               corner of his mouth:

                                     PETE
                         Don't know their names. I seen 'em 
                         first!

               Everett laughs lightly.

                                     EVERETT
                         Ladies, you'll have to pardon my 
                         friend here; Pete is dirt-ignorant 
                         and unschooled in the social arts. 
                         My name on the other hand is Ulysses 
                         Everett McGill and you ladies are 
                         about the three prettiest water lilies 
                         it's ever been my privilege to admire.

               None of the women respond but, as all continue to sing, one 
               brings a jug marked with three Xes to Everett.

                                     EVERETT
                         Why, thank you dear, that's very, 
                         uh...

               He takes a swig.

                                     EVERETTE
                         Mm. Corn licker, I guess, uh, the 
                         preferred local uh...

               He passes the jug to Pete as the woman runs her fingers 
               through his hair.

               The other two women are approaching to likewise tousle Pete 
               and Delmar.

               Delmar's woman caresses his face and, by squeezing his cheeks, 
               smushes his mouth into a pucker.

                                     DELMAR
                         Pleased to meet you, ma'am.

               The singing continues. The stream gurgles. Somewhere, in the 
               distance, flies lazily buzz.

                                     PETE
                         Damn!

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 O Brother, Where Art Thou?

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 December 28, 2011]

Script To Screen: “The Lost Boys”

April 15th, 2015 by

A pivotal scene from the 1987 movie The Lost Boys, screenplay by Janice Fischer & James Jeremias and Jeffrey Boam, story by Janice Fischer & James Jeremias.

IMDb plot summary: After moving to a new town, two brothers are convinced that the area is frequented by vampires.

In this scene, Michael, who has been hanging around with David and crew, is put to the test.

       70        EXT. RAILROAD TRESTLE - NIGHT                            70

                 The trestle spans a deep gorge, obscured IN fog.  The boys
                 arrive on their motorbikes.

                                         DAVID
                           Perfect time.

                 They climb from their motorbikes as David walks onto the
                 trestle.

                                         MICHAEL
                           What's going' on?

                                         DAVID
                                  (smiling)
                           What's goin' on, Marko?

                                         MARKO
                           I dunno.  What's goin' on, Paul?

                                         PAUL
                           Who wants to know?

                                         DAVID
                           Michael wants to know.

                 The Lost Boys laugh.  Michael looks irritated.  He watches
                 as Paul, Marko and Dwayne climb below the trestle, hold
                 on with their hands and allow their bodies to dangle over
                 the fog-shrouded gorge.

                                         DAVID
                           Now you, Michael.

                 Michael hesitates.

                                         DAVID
                           Do it, Michael.  Now!

                 Michael summons his courage and climbs down.  David
                 follows him.

       71        ANGLE BENEATH THE TRESTLE                                71

                 All five boys hanging on.  The fog billowing up beneath
                 them.  Michael starts to look down.  Then, a RUMBLING is
                 heard in the distance.  Michael notices the look of
                 excitement in the eyes of the other boys.

                 A PASSENGER TRAIN is approaching.  It's WHISTLE BLOWS.
                 The trestle begins to shake.  A look of terror comes into
                 Michael's expression.

                                         DAVID
                           Hang on!!

                 The train THUNDERS across the trestle overhead, only a
                 foot or two above them.

                 The ROAR and the NOISE are tremendous.  The heat.  The
                 smoke.  The dust.

                 The boys grimace and hold on for dear life.  Then,
                 Michael reacts in horror as:

                 PAUL

                 releases his grip and falls, disappearing into the fog
                 below.

                 Then:  Marko falls.  Followed by Dwayne.  Only David and
                 Michael remain.  David shouts over the DIN of the passing
                 train.

                                         DAVID
                           Let go, Michael!  Let go!

                 Michael can't believe what he's hearing.  He's scared out
                 of his wits.

                                         DAVID
                           Do it!

                 David lets go with one hand, clings on with the other.

                                         DAVID
                           Do it, Michael!!!

                 David lets go.  He drops from sight; vanishing into the
                 fog below.

                 MICHAEL

                 Sweat streaming down his face.  The final car of the
                 train passes overhead and the noise begins to fade.
                 Then Michael hears:  laughter from the fog below.

                                         LOST BOYS
                           Drop, Michael.  Let go!  It's
                           safe!  Come on!  Don't be such a
                           baby!

                 They WHISTLE and CAT CALL and do everything they can to
                 goad him on.  All the while invisible in the darkness
                 below.

                 Michael lets go.  He drops into the fog.

                 His eyes widen with fright -- but -- for a moment he is
                 buoyant -- suspended in mid-air -- floating!

                 And then... he drops.  With a WHOOSH.  Like dead weight.
                 The wind RUSHING around his ears.  He loses consciousness.

                 DAVID

                 catches him in his arms.

                                         DAVID
                           Almost.

       72        INT. MICHAEL'S BEDROOM - DAY                             72

                 The shakes are drawn and the room is dark.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Lots of differences, most of them small, but the focus on the changes seems to be about heightened the mystery of the Lost Boys and that Michael is now a part of them, i.e., has become a vampire. Note:

* Instead of climbing down to hang on the underside of the bridge, the Boys plummet into the fog, only to be revealed as hanging on.

* David keeps repeating to Michael, “You’re one of us now” and invites Michael to let go and fall into the sky below.

* Interestingly the movie cuts the catcall lines from the fog below, opting instead for generic laughter on the part of the Boys.

The whole train thing is a great visual bit, a perfect distillation of the whole juvenile delinquent dynamic present in the story and the vampire theme, here reinforced by the image of them hanging down, then presumably flying in the fog.

What other changes do you note between script and screen?

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: “Kill Bill: Vol. 1”

March 25th, 2015 by

An action scene from early in the 2003 movie Kill Bill: Vol. 1, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino.

IMDb plot summary: The Bride wakens from a four-year coma. The child she carried in her womb is gone. Now she must wreak vengeance on the team of assassins who betrayed her – a team she was once part of.

The scene from the script:

EXT. RESIDENTIAL PASADENA STREET - DAY

The front door opens and an attractive black HOUSEWIFE the
same age as The Bride stands in the doorway.
The Housewife's face shows immediate recognition of the
blonde on her doorstep.

The BRIDE
on the porch; we do a quick Shaw-Brothers-style Zoom into her
eyes.

FLASHBACK - SPAGHETTI WESTERN STYLE
(That means our Heroine is remembering something, and we see
it with an orange filter.) We're back inside the wedding
chapel. The Bride is taking the beating of her life by four
people in black suits. A black woman PUNCHES HER in the
face... WE see it's the black housewife, five years earlier.

The BRIDE ON THE PORCH
We Zoom quick out of her eyes to CU, a VENGEANCE THEME PLAYS
LOUD ON THE SOUNDTRACK.		(Whenever we hear this theme
throughout the picture, we'll quickly learn what accompanies
it is The Bride goin Krakatoa all over whoever's ass happens
to be in front of her at that moment.) As the Vengeance Theme
plays, a Vein in The Bride's forehead begins to pulsate. When
the Vengeance Theme stops, The Bride ATTACKS The Housewife.

INT. HOUSEWIFE'S NICE HOME - DAY

The white woman and the black woman FLY into the center of
the living room, CRASHING onto her coffe table in front of
the sofa.

These two wildcats go at each other savagely, TUMBLING OVER
the couch, clawing and scratching all the way, landing
together on the plush carpet.

The HOUSEWIFE
KICKS The Bride, sending her CRASHING backwards into the
small table where the phone, a note pad		(for messages), and
the mail is kept.

The Housewife scrambles up on her feet, but is caught by a
FLYING TACKLE from behind by The Bride that sends them both
into........

An ornamental iron and tempered-glass bookcase that has
framed family photos, display toys, some African art, and a
collection of painted commemorative plates depicting the
negro experience in the American military. Starting with a
plate featuring Cripis Atkins in the revolutionary war, negro
troops in union blue during the civil war, Buffalo soldiers
fighting Indians, the Jim Crow troops of the first world war,
the colored troops of world war two, Korea, Vietnam, and
finally Colin Powell....The Bride and The Housewife CRASH
THROUGH all this reducing everything to rubble.

They land hard on the floor covered in broken glass, locked
in grapple, each trying to get the best of the other one,...
When The Housewife HEADBUTTS The Bride in the nose.

The HOUSEWIFE
hops off The Bride, runs into the kitchen, opens a drawer and
comes out with a HUGE MOTHERFUCKIN BUTCHER KNIFE.

The BRIDE
rises from the floor, and WHIPS OUT a KNIFE in a sheath
hanging from her belt known as a SOG.		(A SOG is a long,
double-edged knife that's as sharp as a razor, and is what
Navy Seals use to kill humans with.)

The Bride backs up into the mess of the now totally
demolished living room.

The two woman stalk each other, each holding her blade, each
looking like they know how to use it, each waiting for the
other to make a mistake so they can plunge their blade deep
into the other one.

Blood and sweat dript off of the faces of the two women
locked in life and death combat......

....When The back kitchen door opens, and a FOUR-YEAR-OLD
LITTLE GIRL, carrying a lunch box steps inside.

			FOUR-YEAR-OLD GIRL
	Mommy, I'm home!

The two warrior women whose eyes reflect only combat
concentration, suddenly switch upon hearing the four-year
old's voice. The Housewife's eyes flash a look of pleading to
the eyes of The Bride.

The Bride seems to answer back; "Okay."

The Black woman and the white woman hide their edged weapons
behind their backs, as the Four-Year-Old Little Girl walks
into the newly destroyed living room.

The Housewife switches to her mommy voice.

			THE HOUSEWIFE
	Hey baby, how was school?

Here is the scene from the movie:

What did you notice in the translation from script to screen? Differences? Interesting use of language to convey eventual visuals?

One of the 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: “Joe Versus the Volcano”

March 18th, 2015 by

A key scene toward the beginning of the 1990 movie Joe Versus the Volcano, written and directed by John Patrick Shanley.

IMDb plot summary: When a hypochondriac learns that he is dying, he accepts an offer to throw himself in a volcano at a tropical island, and along the way there, learns to truly live.

In this scene, we see Joe’s response at work after he’s learned he has a terminal illness.

INT. ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT - DAY			

Joe comes in.  Dede is typing away.  Mr. Waturi is on the
phone.  Joe hangs up his coat.  He misses with the hat
again because of Dede's typing.  He leans over and
switches the typewriter off.  Then he picks up his hat,
dusts it off and throws it in the garbage can.

			  WATURI
		  (on phone)
	No.  No.  You were wrong.  He
	was wrong.  Who said that?  I
	didn't say that.  If I had
	said that, I would've been
	wrong.  I would've been wrong,
	Harry, isn't that right?

Mr. Waturi's attention is split between his call and Joe,
who is walking around the office like a tourist.

			  WATURI
	Listen, let me call you back,
	I've got something here, okay?
	And don't tell him anything
	till we finish our
	conversation, okay?

Mr. Waturi hangs up the phone.  Joe is looking at the
coffee set-up.

			  WATURI
	Joe?

			  JOE
	Yeah?

			  WATURI
	You were at lunch three hours.

			  JOE
	About that.

Joe wanders away, into his office.  Waturi looks after.

INT. JOE'S OFFICE - DAY

Joe is staring at the big wheel valve sporting the sign
that says Main Drain.  Mr. Waturi comes in as Joe moves
forward and, with great effort, rotates the wheel to its
opposite extreme.  This scares Waturi.

			  WATURI
	Joe, what are you doing?

			  JOE
	I'm opening, or closing, the
	main drain.

Nothing happens.

			  WATURI
	You shouldn't be touching
	that.

			  JOE
	Nothing happened.  Do you know
	how long I've been wondering
	what would happen if I did
	that?

			  WATURI
	What's the matter with you?

			  JOE
	Brain cloud.

			  WATURI
	What?

			  JOE
	Never mind.  Listen, Mr.
	Waturi. Frank.  I quit.
			
Joe starts to take some stuff out of his desk.  He looks
at his lamp, gets the cord, plugs it in, and turns it on.

			  WATURI
	You mean, today?

			  JOE
	That's right.

			  WATURI
	That's great.  Well, don't
	come looking for a reference.

			  JOE
	Okay, I won't.

			  WATURI
	You blew this job.

Joe takes in the little room.

			  JOE
	I've been here for four and a
	half years.  The work I did I
	probably could've done in
	five, six months. That leaves
	four years leftover.

He's been filling up a shopping bag with stuff from his
desk:  three books (Romeo and Juliet, Robinson Crusoe and
The Odyssey), an old ukulele and his lamp.  Now he's
finished.  He walks out of the room without even looking
at Waturi.  Waturi goes after him as he exits.

INT. ADVERTISING DEPARTMENT - DAY

Joe is walking towards the front door.  Waturi follows
him in.  Joe stops at Dede's desk. She's typing.  He
looks at her.  She stops typing.

			  JOE
	Four years.  If I had them
	now. Like gold in my hand.
	Here.  This is for you.
		  (gives Dede the lamp)
	'Bye-bye, Dede.

			  DEDE
	You're going?

			  WATURI
	Well, if you're leaving,
	leave.	You'll get your check.  
        And, I promise you, you'll be 
        easy to replace.

			  JOE
	I should say something.

			  WATURI
	What are you talking about?

			  JOE
	This life.  Life?  What a
	joke. This situation   This
	room.

			  WATURI
	Joe, maybe you should just...

			  JOE
	You look terrible, Mr. Waturi.
	You look like a bag of shit
	stuffed inna cheap suit.  Not
	that anyone would look good
	under these zombie lights.  I
	can feel them sucking the
	juice outta my eyeballs. Three
	hundred bucks a week, that's
	the news.  For three hundred
	bucks a week I've lived in
	this sink. This used rubber.

			  WATURI
	Watch it, mister!  There's a
	woman here!

			  JOE
	Don't you think I know that,
	Frank? Don't you think I'm
	aware there's a woman here?  I
	can taste her on my tongue.  I
	can smell her.  When I'm
	twenty feet away, I can hear
	the fabric of her dress when
	she moves in her chair.  Not
	that I've done anything about
	it.  I've gone all day, every
	day, not doing, not saying,
	not taking the chance for
	three hundred bucks a week,
	and Frank the coffee stinks
	it's like arsenic, the lights
	give me a headache if the
	lights don't give you a
	headache you must be dead,
	let's arrange the funeral.

			  WATURI
	You better get outta here
	right now!  I'm telling you!

			  JOE
	You're telling me nothing.

			  WATURI
	I'm telling you!

			  JOE
	And why, I ask myself, why
	have I put up with you?  I
	can't imagine but I know.
	Fear.  Yellow freakin' fear.
	I've been too chicken shit
	afraid to live my life so I
	sold it to you for three
	hundred freakin' dollars a
	week! You're lucky I don't
	kill you! You're lucky I don't
	rip your freakin' throat out!
	But I'm not going to and maybe
	you're not so lucky at that.
	'Cause I'm gonna leave you
	here, Mister Wa-a-Waturi, and
	what could be worse than that?

Joe opens the door and leaves.  Mr. Waturi and Dede are
frozen.  The door reopens and Joe comes halfway back in.

			  JOE
	Dede?

			  DEDE
	Yeah?

			  JOE
	How 'bout dinner tonight?

			  DEDE
	Yeah, uh, okay.

Joe smiles for the first time since we've met him, and
closes the door again.

			  DEDE
	Wow.  What a change.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Two things of note. First, the actors recite the dialogue almost word for word. Perhaps this is because they’re not only dealing with a script written by an Academy Award winning screenwriter (Moonstruck), but also a playwright. And there is a proud tradition in theater: Don’t screw with the writer’s dialogue.

Second, one thing Tom Hanks does do in the scene is improvise with the fake arm. None of that is in the script.

My guess: The prop was just sitting there and Hanks, being a talented improvisational actor, discussed it with Shanley, and they did a few takes with Hanks playing around with the arm. It adds a nice bit of fun and also reveals character, showing how much further Hanks’ character is willing to go to express ridicule toward his boss and his job.

Any Joe Versus the Volcano fans out there? Not the greatest movie in the world, but some really wonderful scenes. Plus Meg Ryan plays three different roles. And Hanks delivers his usual exceptional performance.

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: “Jaws”

March 11th, 2015 by

It’s the movie that forever changed the movie business, the first true blockbuster of the modern era: Jaws (1975), screenplay by Peter Benchley and Carl Gottlieb, novel by Benchley.

IMDb plot summary: When a gigantic great white shark begins to menace the small island community of Amity, a police chief, a marine scientist and grizzled fisherman set out to stop it.

The scene: One of the most memorable opening incidents in movie history.

               EXT. BEACH – NIGHT – SHARK'S POINT OF VIEW – RISING OUT OF 
               THE WATER, LOOKING AT

               It is a pleasant, moonlit, windless night in mid-June. We 
               see a long straight stretch of white beach. Behind the low 
               dunes are the dark shapes of large expensive houses. Hear a 
               number of voices singing. It sounds like an eastern 
               university's alma mater, no longer distorted.

               EXT. BEACH – NIGHT – ANOTHER ANGLE

               Around a blazing bonfire, a group of young men and women, 
               beer cans (or maybe a keg) in evidence, as well as the bota 
               Spanish leather wine-bag much in favor by beach and ski-bum 
               types.

               The group is swapping sentimental alma maters, weepily singing 
               eastern Ivy League anthems -– Dartmouth, Cornell, Harvard, 
               Penn, etc. Two young people break away from the others. They

               are Tom Cassidy and Chrissie. Behind them, there is 
               considerable necking activity; Tom and Chrissie are more 
               serious.

               TOM

               Makes a clumsy attempt at snaring Chrissie, cups her from 
               behind. She squirms playfully out of his grasp. We discover 
               he's not especially sober.

                                     TOM
                         Hey! Hey hey! I'm with you, right?

               EXT. ANOTHER PART OF THE BEACH – NIGHT

               Tom and Chrissie are separated from the others, silhouetted 
               against the fire, she pauses and looks at the ocean, he is 
               plodding along in the sand, winded.

               Chrissie runs down the slope of the dune towards the water, 
               leaving Tom reeling atop the dune. As she runs, she is 
               shedding her clothes. Tom is trying to trail her by her 
               clothes, like Hansel following bread crumbs through the woods.

               But Chrissie is way ahead of him.

                                     CHRISSIE
                         C'mon!

               She runs headlong into the inviting sea, plunges cleanly 
               into the water with a light "Whoops!" as the cold water sweeps 
               over her.

               Behind all this, we continue to hear the sentimental, beery 
               chorus of alma maters.

               Then we see it -- a gentle bulge in the water, a ripple that 
               passes her a dozen feet away. A pressure wave lifts her up, 
               then eases her down again, like a smooth, sudden swell.

                                     CHRISSIE
                         Tommy? Don't dunk me...

               She looks around for him, finds him still on the beach, his 
               feet tangled in his pants, which have dropped around his 
               ankles. She starts to swim back in to him.

               EXT. CHRISSIE IN THE WATER

               Her expression freezes. The water-bulge is racing towards 
               her. The first bump jolts her upright, out of the water to 
               her hips. She reaches under water to touch her leg. Whatever 
               she feels makes her open her mouth to scream, but she is 
               slammed again, hard, whipped into an arc of about eight feet, 
               up and down, submerging her down to her open mouth, choking 
               off any scream she might try to make. Another jolt to her 
               body, driving her under so that only her hair swirls on the 
               surface. Then it too is sucked below in a final and terrible 
               jerking motion. HOLD on the eddies and swirls until we're 
               sure it's all over.

               EXT. CLOSE ON TOM ON BEACH

               In his shorts, laughing to himself, turning in slow stoned 
               circles, held prisoner by his windbreaker which seems to 
               have him in an armlock, as he struggles to free his arm from 
               a tight sleeve. As he turns, we hear the alma maters in the 
               background, from the fire.

Here is the scene from the movie:

There’s a lot more dialogue in the film version than the script, presumably largely improvised on set. Interesting to note in an earlier draft, there was no scripted dialogue in this scene. Also compare the shark attack scene from an earlier draft to the one attributed to the final draft, excerpted above:

	Her expression freezes.  The water-lump is racing for her.
	It bolts her upright, out of the water to her hips, then slams
	her hard, whipping her in an upward arc of eight feet before
	she is jerked down to her open mouth.  Another jolt to her
	floating hair.  One hand claws the air, fingers trying to
	breathe, then it, too, is sucked below in a final and terrible
	jerking motion.  HOLD on the churning froth of a baby whirl-
	pool until we are sure it is over.

Close, but less in the way of description. Compared to the movie version which has a bunch more action and lots of poor Chrissie’s screams and pleas for help — again probably improvised on set — Spielberg upped the action, taking what is detailed in one paragraph into an entire minute of the unseen shark’s attack.

There’s also an additional cut to Tommy on the beach during the middle of the shark attack, which adds to the tension — Why doesn’t he hear her?!!! — and contributes some dramatic irony.

By the way, the alternate title of the script: “Stillness in the Water”.

Do you remember the first time you saw Jaws?

One of the 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.