Script To Screen: “Excalibur”

January 28th, 2015 by

A key early scene in the 1981 movie Excalibur, screenplay by Rospo Pallenberg and John Boorman, book by Thomas Malory.

IMDb plot summary: Merlin the magician helps Arthur Pendragon unite the Britons around the round table of Camelot even as forces conspire to tear it apart.

In this scene, Arthur, who has previously managed to pull the sword Excalibur from the magic stone, but is as yet only a squire, finds himself in the midst of a battle.

               EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

               Arthur fights like a wounded lion at the center of the savage 
               melee of sword and shield, and once again the two sides fall 
               apart.

               Uryens and Lot are standing in the moat among the bodies of 
               their men, are reduced to eleven knights, all wounded.

               Arthur is flanked by twenty men at arms, most of them wounded, 
               and trembling now beyond exhaustion with blood lust. Arthur 
               steps forward alone, and addresses his opponents.

                                     ARTHUR
                         You are in my hands, to slay or spare. 
                         I need battle lords such as you. 
                         Swear faith to me and you shall have 
                         mercy.

                                     URYENS
                         Noble knights swear faith to a mere 
                         squire?

               Arthur turns, searching for Merlin. He spots him watching 
               from a distance. They stare at each other, Merlin implacable, 
               Arthur's eyes pleading. It's obvious that Merlin isn't going 
               to help.

                                     ARTHUR
                         You are right. I'm not yet a knight.
                              (gaining strength)
                         You, Uryens, will knight me.

               He unsheathes Excalibur and goes forward, kneeling before 
               Uryens and offering him the sword.

                                     ARTHUR
                         Then as knight to knight I can offer 
                         you mercy.

                                     MERLIN
                              (to himself)
                         What's this, what's this?!

               Arthur, kneeling, bows his head and Uryens steps up to him, 
               his features set. He accepts the sword. Lot watches, a mad 
               hope dancing in his eyes.

               EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CAMELYARDE CASTLE - NIGHT

               Guenevere watches, frightened for Arthur, not daring to 
               breathe.

               EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

               Uryens stands towering above the boy. He smiles enigmatically. 
               He lifts Excalibur.

               Merlin is attempting to push through the crowded ranks to 
               get to Arthur.

               He's frantic and worried for once.

                                     MERLIN
                         I never saw this...

               Uryens swiftly lowers the sword on Arthur's neck; with the 
               flat of the blade he gives Arthur the three strokes.

                                     URYENS
                         In the name of God, of Saint Michael 
                         and Saint George, I give you the 
                         right to bear arms, the power to 
                         mete justice.

               Arthur looks up.

                                     ARTHUR
                         That duty I will solemnly obey as 
                         knight and King.

               Uryens is deeply moved.

                                     URYENS
                         Rise, my King. I am your humble 
                         knight, and I swear allegiance to 
                         the courage in your veins, for so 
                         strong it is, it's source must be 
                         Uther. I doubt you no more.

               Arthur rises and Uryens kneels and kisses his hands. Sir 
               Ector turns away to hide brimming tears. Merlin pushes through 
               finally, out of breath. Uryens embraces Leondegrance while 
               Lot and the other enemy knights kneel in turn and kiss 
               Arthur's hands.

Here is the scene from the movie:

This one is almost word for word the same – script to screen. Note how many of the camera shots are indicated in scene description by shifting slug lines and use of paragraphs to suggest points of focus.

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: “The English Patient”

January 21st, 2015 by

A moment of obsessed love explored in this scene from the 1996 movie The English Patient, screenplay by Anthony Minghella, novel by Michael Ondaatje.

IMDb plot summary: At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.

Here Almásy (Ralph Fiennes) spies on his lover Katherine (Kristin Scott Thomas) dancing.

               EXT.    AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE.    NIGHT.

               Later, now MOST OF THE GROUP ARE DANCING.  We see Katharine
               dancing with Rupert Douglas, enjoying herself.  Bermann is
               there and even Madox jogging and grinning foolishly.  Clifton
               looks at Katharine who, as the dance ends, excuses herself to
               go to the cloakroom.  Almásy hovers in the shadows, unseen.

               INT.    AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE.    NIGHT.

               Katharine comes along the familiar warren of rooms and
               corridors and is suddenly confronted by Almásy, tortured and
               out of control.

                                   ALMÁSY
                         Why did you hold his collar?

                                   KATHARINE
                         What?

                                   ALMÁSY
                             (mimicking her inflection)
                         What?  What?  That boy, that little
                         boy, you were holding his collar,
                         gripping his collar, what for?

                                   KATHARINE
                         Would you let me pass?

                                   ALMÁSY
                         Is he next?  Do you drag him into
                         your little room?  Where is it?  Is
                         this it?

                                   KATHARINE
                         Don't do this.

                                   ALMÁSY
                         I've watched you - on verandahs, at
                         Garden Parties, at the Races - how
                         can you stand there?  How can you
                         ever smile?  As if your life hadn't
                         capsized?

                                   KATHARINE
                         You know why? 
            
               He tries to hold her. She resists.

                                   ALMÁSY
                         Dance with me.

                                   KATHARINE
                         No.

                                   ALMÁSY
                         Dance with me.  I want to touch
                         you. I want the things which are
                         mine. Which belong to me.

                                   KATHARINE
                         Do you think you're the only one
                         who feels anything?  Is that what
                         you think?

               Some women, flushed with dancing, turn the corner on the way
               to the Ladies Room.  They collect Katharine in their train
               and leave Almásy to fall back into the shadows.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

The dialogue in the movie is almost word for word as in the script. And why not? As delivered by Fiennes, the dialogue explodes with latent emotion. Dance with me. I want to touch you. I want the things which are mine. Which belong to me. Simple. Short. Indeed every word is one syllable. That reinforces the base quality of his character’s obsession with Katherine.

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: “Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”

January 14th, 2015 by

A scene from the brilliant 1964 satire Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, screenplay by Stanley Kubrick & Terry Southern & Peter George, novel by Peter George.

IMDb plot summary: An insane general triggers a path to nuclear holocaust that a war room full of politicians and generals frantically try to stop.

In this scene, U.S. President Muffley, played by Peter Sellers, is forced to call Dmitri, the head of the Soviet Union to deliver some bad news.

     DE SADE hands the phone back.

                       PRESIDENT MUFFLEY
             Hello?...Yes...Uh-huh...certainly I understand
             ...Oh someone tried it on you once before...
             Look, Belch, I'll tell you why I called...
             Hello...Hello...Can you hear me?...Say, could
             they turn the music down a little?...Oh, well,
             could they stop playing?...Oh, good, I thought
             we lost the connection there for a minute...
             yes, I hear you very clearly...Well, look...
                 (clears throat)
             You know how we've always talked about the
             possibility of something going wrong?...With
             the H-bomb...uh-huh...that's right...Well, it
             happened...Hello?...Can you still hear me?...
             What?...Not missiles - planes...that's right...
             B-90's...That's right...Thirty-four of them...
             In about an hour and a half...uh-huh...Uh-huh
             ...Uh-huh...Well, how do you think I feel about
             it?...I know that...Uh-huh...Uh-huh...Well, why
             do you think I'm calling you?...to work some-
             thing out on this disarmament thing...Uh-huh...
             Sure, but you haven't been reasonable...Uh-huh...
             Uh-huh...Look Belch...Look, we're wasting time...
             Uh-huh...a base commander...We're not sure...
             Well, we think he's gone psycho...Had a mental
             breakdown...We're trying to do that...We're
             doing that right now...Well, we've got our fingers
             crosses...we're hoping...We're trying that too...
             Uh-huh...Uh-huh...Uh-huh...That's not fair for you
             to say...We're doing everything we possibly can
             ...Certainly...Sure I can imagine...Uh-huh...

                       PRESIDENT MUFFLEY (cont)
             Uh-huh...Uh-huh...Look, there's something
             else.  We want to give your Air Staff a
             complete rundown on the targets, flight
             plans, and defensive systems of the planes
             ...No, it's on the level...Sure I hate to
             do a thing like that, but at this point it's
             got to be a case of one hand scratches the
             other...co-operate...Right now...Who should
             they call?...The People's Central Air Defense
             Headquarters?...Where?...In Karnak?...Right...
             You'll call them first...Uh-huh...Do you happen
             to have the phone number?...Just ask Karnak
             information?...
                 (he gestures to GENERAL SCHMUCK who exits the
                 room)
             What's that?...Yes, I'm listening...Uh-huh...
             Uh-huh...a hundred thousand megatons...Cobalt-
             Thorium-G casing?...What's that for?...Uh-huh
             ...Uh-huh...Irrevocable and automatic?...Uh-
             huh...Why didn't you let us know?...Sure I know
             the Party Congress is next week...Certainly I
             understand..but what are we supposed to do about
             it now?...Right...Okay, well, how long will it
             take for you to get back to your office?...Right,
             well call me back as soon as you do...BEdlock 3-
             3333, extension, 2497...If you forget, just ask
             for me...Right...Bye-bye.

     Hangs up phone.

                       PRESIDENT MUFFLEY
                 (to AMBASSADOR DE SADE)
             The Premier says that've got a Doomsday
             Machine that can kill all human life on earth-
             is that true?

Here is the scene from the movie:

The dialogue as written covers the Beginning (saying hello), Middle (delivering the news), and End (what to do about the bombers) of the scene, as well as many of the lines in the film version. But it’s what Sellers does with the dialogue, improvising as only he could, that elevates the humor several notches. Compare to the script to a transcript of the movie:

President Merkin Muffley: [to Kissoff] Hello?… Uh… Hello D- uh hello Dmitri? Listen uh uh I can’t hear too well. Do you suppose you could turn the music down just a little?… Oh-ho, that’s much better… yeah… huh… yes… Fine, I can hear you now, Dmitri… Clear and plain and coming through fine… I’m coming through fine, too, eh?… Good, then… well, then, as you say, we’re both coming through fine… Good… Well, it’s good that you’re fine and… and I’m fine… I agree with you, it’s great to be fine… a-ha-ha-ha-ha… Now then, Dmitri, you know how we’ve always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with the Bomb… The *Bomb*, Dmitri… The *hydrogen* bomb!… Well now, what happened is… ahm… one of our base commanders, he had a sort of… well, he went a little funny in the head… you know… just a little… funny. And, ah… he went and did a silly thing… Well, I’ll tell you what he did. He ordered his planes… to attack your country… Ah… Well, let me finish, Dmitri… Let me finish, Dmitri… Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?… Can you *imagine* how I feel about it, Dmitri?… Why do you think I’m calling you? Just to say hello?… *Of course* I like to speak to you!… *Of course* I like to say hello!… Not now, but anytime, Dmitri. I’m just calling up to tell you something terrible has happened… It’s a *friendly* call. Of course it’s a friendly call… Listen, if it wasn’t friendly… you probably wouldn’t have even got it… They will *not* reach their targets for at least another hour… I am… I am positive, Dmitri… Listen, I’ve been all over this with your ambassador. It is not a trick… Well, I’ll tell you. We’d like to give your air staff a complete run-down on the targets, the flight plans, and the defensive systems of the planes… Yes! I mean i-i-i-if we’re unable to recall the planes, then… I’d say that, ah… well, ah… we’re just gonna have to help you destroy them, Dmitri… I know they’re our boys… All right, well listen now. Who should we call?… *Who* should we call, Dmitri? The… wha-whe, the People… you, sorry, you faded away there… The People’s Central Air Defense Headquarters… Where is that, Dmitri?… In Omsk… Right… Yes… Oh, you’ll call them first, will you?… Uh-huh… Listen, do you happen to have the phone number on you, Dmitri?… Whe-ah, what? I see, just ask for Omsk information… Ah-ah-eh-uhm-hm… I’m sorry, too, Dmitri… I’m very sorry… *All right*, you’re sorrier than I am, but I am as sorry as well… I am as sorry as you are, Dmitri! Don’t say that you’re more sorry than I am, because I’m capable of being just as sorry as you are… So we’re both sorry, all right?… All right.

What Sellers does so wonderfully is zero in on the personal relationship between he and Dmitri, suggesting that the Soviet leader is insecure about their friendship and that Muffley is equally so. It’s like the dynamic between the two reflects the very nature of mistrust that lies at the heart of the strategy both countries subscribed to at the time with regard to their respective nuclear arsenals, what was known as M.A.D. — Mutually Assured Destruction. Indeed it was this very point that inspired Kubrick to take this story, what he originally conceived of as a drama, and turn it into arguably the greatest movie satire of all time.

Note: I italicized three key bits of business in the movie transcript to spotlight how Sellers improvised to milk this dynamic of mistrust and insecurity. The last set of lines about who is more sorry also is a metaphor for the entire reason why the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. found themselves in this situation, what was called The Arms Race, where each side kept building up their weaponry to keep up with the other.

The writing in the script is great. Sellers’ performance as three characters in the movie makes the film something truly special.

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: “Dark Star”

January 7th, 2015 by

A scene from late in the 1974 movie Dark Star, original story by John Carpenter and Dan O’Bannon.

IMDb plot summary: In the far reaches of space, a small crew, 20 years into their solitary mission, find things beginning to go hilariously wrong.

In a moment that is an obvious homage to Dave v. HAL in 2001: A Space Odyssey, Doolittle is working some logic with the space ship computer Bomb, seconds left until self-detonation.

     EXTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Now, bomb, consider this next
                    question, very carefully.  What is
                    your one purpose in life?

                                   BOMB #20
                    To explode, of course.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    And you can only do it once, right?

                                   BOMB #20
                    That is correct.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    And you wouldn't want to explode on
                    the basis of false data, would you?

                                   BOMB #20
                    Of course not.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Well then, you've already admitted
                    that you have no real proof of the
                    existence of the outside universe.

                                   BOMB #20
                    Yes, well...

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    So you have no absolute proof that
                    Sergeant Pinback ordered you to
                    detonate.

                                   BOMB #20
                    I recall distinctly the detonation
                    order.  My memory is good on matters
                    like these.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Yes, of course you remember it, but
                    what you are remembering is merely a
                    series of electrical impulses which
                    you now realize have no necessary
                    connection with outside reality.

                                   BOMB #20
                    True, but since this is so, I have
                    no proof that you are really telling
                    me all this.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

     Pinback is pawing frantically through the control room, searching for
     the key.  Boiler is apoplectic.

                                   BOILER
                    The key, goddamit, the key!

                                   PINBACK
                    Christ, twenty seconds, Christ!

                                   BOILER
                    Where is the key?

                                   PINBACK
                    We're gonna die, Boiler.  We're gonna
                    die.

     They begin slapping each other hysterically.

     EXTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    That's all beside the point.  The
                    concepts are valid, wherever they
                    originate.

                                   BOMB #20
                    Hmmm...

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    So if you detonate in...

                                   BOMB #20
                    ... nine seconds...

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    ... you may be doing so on the basis
                    of false data.

                                   BOMB #20
                    I have no proof that it was false
                    data.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    You have no proof that it was
                    correct data.

     There is a long pause.

                                   BOMB #20
                    I must think on this further.

     THE BOMB RAISES ITSELF BACK INTO THE SHIP.  Doolittle practically
     collapses with relief.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    It didn't go off.

                                   PINBACK
                    Oh, God...

                                   BOILER
                    It didn't go off.

                                   PINBACK
                    Boiler, we're alive.  My heart.

     INTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

     Talby slowly climbs to his feet.  He is dazed, groggy.

                                   TALBY
                    Doolittle?  Doolittle?  What happened?
                    Pinback?  Boiler?  Did we blow it up?
                    Hello?  Hello?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    No bombs today.  No bombs.  Big
                    Boiler's back in business.  No bombs
                    today.

     Pinback is mumbling unintelligibly.

     INTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

                                   TALBY
                    Hello, anybody!  Did we blow up the
                    planet?  Hello, hello!  What's going
                    on?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

     Pinback and Boiler have calmed down.

                                   BOILER
                    We've got to disarm the bomb.

                                   PINBACK
                    Doolittle, are you there?

     EXTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

     Doolittle is floating outside the Emergency Air Lock door.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    I'm coming in now.  I'm down by the
                    Emergency Air Lock.  Too much trouble
                    to come in the Ventral Lock.  Would
                    you blow the seal on the emergency
                    hatch so I can come in?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    Oh, sure.

     He presses a button.

     EXTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

     The Emergency Air Lock door EXPLODES AWAY FROM THE SHIP.  Behind it,
     carried by the burst of escaping air, comes Talby spinning head over
     heels into deep space.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Hello, Pinback, are you there?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    Yeah, Doolittle.  What's up?

     EXTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Talby was in the air lock.  You blew
                    him out of the ship.  I'm going after
                    him.  Turn on his helmet radio so I
                    can contact him.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    What was that, I didn't hear...

                                   PINBACK
                    It's Talby.  He's drifting away from
                    the ship without his jetpack.

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

     Doolittle fires his jetpack, moving off into space after Talby.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Talby, Talby, can you read me?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    Can you beat that?  I always knew
                    Talby was weird.

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Talby, can you read me?

     Talby is spinning wildly.

                                   TALBY
                    Help, Doolittle, help me!

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    All right, bomb, prepare to receive
                    new orders.

                                   BOMB #20
                              (over)
                    You are false data.

                                   PINBACK
                    Huh?

                                   BOMB #20
                    Therefore, I shall ignore you.

                                   PINBACK
                    Hello, bomb.

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   BOMB #20
                    False data can act only as a
                    distraction.  Therefore.  I shall
                    refuse to perceive you.

                                   PINBACK
                              (over)
                    Hey, bomb.

                                   BOMB #20
                    The only thing which exists is
                    myself.

                                   PINBACK
                              (over)
                    Bomb?

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

     Talby, spinning, is reflected in Doolittle's face plate.

                                   TALBY
                    Doolittle!  Help me.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Calm down, Talby.  I'm coming.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    Snap out of it, bomb.

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   BOMB #20
                    In the beginning there was darkness,
                    and the darkness was without form
                    and void.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    What the hell?

                                   PINBACK
                    Yoo hoo, bomb...

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   BOMB #20
                    And in addition to the darkness
                    there was also me.  And I moved upon
                    the face of the darkness.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    Bomb, hey bomb.

                                   PINBACK
                    Hey, bomb...

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   BOMB #20
                    And I saw that I was alone.

     Pause.

                                   BOMB #20
                              (cont'd)
                    Let there be light.

     THE SCREEN GOES WHITE.

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

     IN DEAD SILENCE, THE WHITE SCREEN FADES DOWN TO SHOW A GIANT WHITE
     FIREBALL IN SPACE.  THE FIREBALL CONTRACTS TO A HARD CORE, GROWING RED.
     THEN

     A BLINDING WHITE FLASH.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Note how little scene description there is, almost all dialogue. From a plot standpoint, it’s a fun reversal: The use of human logic to stop Bomb, but then Bomb uses the same logic to reach its explosive decision.

Do yourself a favor and watch the clip all the way to the end. Ridiculous, right? Now imagine a theater filled with stoned college students. That’s a big reason why the movie became a cult hit.

By the way, the character Pinback is played by Dan O’Bannon, the co-writer of the script. He would later go on to write another science fiction script you might have heard of: Alien.

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: “Do the Right Thing”

December 31st, 2014 by

Latent anger turns to hostility into violence in this intense scene from the 1989 movie Do the Right Thing, written by Spike Lee.

IMDb plot summary: On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.

The text of the conflict: The locals want some “black faces” on the pizzeria’s wall of fame. The owner of the joint wants them to turn off the music. A looming racial divide lies underneath and explodes in this scene.

ANGLE--DOOR

Ahmad, Cee, Punchy, and Ella enter.

					SAL
		  We're about to close.

					AHMAD
		  Just four slices, regular slices.
		  Please.  To go!

					SAL
		  OK, but that's it.  It's been a
		  long day.

Mookie goes over to the table where Ahmad, Cee, Punchy, and
Ella sit.

											    77.


					MOOKIE
		  Look, I want you to get your
		  slices, then outta here.  No
		  playing around.

					AHMAD
		  You got it.

					MOOKIE
		  Good.  No joke.  We all wanna go
		  home.

OH NO!  We hear the dum-dum-dum of Radio Raheem's box.  As
everyone turns their heads to the door, Buggin' Out and
Radio Raheem are inside already.  We have never heard the
rap music as loud as it is now.  You have to scream to be
heard and that's what they do.

					SAL
		  What did I tell ya 'bout dat noise?

					BUGGIN' OUT
		  What did I tell ya 'bout dem
		  pictures?

					SAL
		  What da fuck!  Are you deaf?

					BUGGIN' OUT
		  No, are you?  We want some Black
		  people up on the Wall of Fame.

					SAL
		  Turn that JUNGLE MUSIC off.  We
		  ain't in Africa.

Ahmad, Cee, Punchy, and Ella start to dance while Mookie
takes a seat, the impartial observer that he is.

					BUGGIN' OUT
		  Why it gotta be about jungle music
		  and Africa?

					SAL
		  It's about turning that shit off
		  and getting the fuck outta my
		  pizzeria.

					PINO
		  Radio Raheem.

					RADIO RAHEEM
		  Fuck you.

					SAL
		  What ever happened to nice music
		  with words you can understand?

					RADIO RAHEEM
		  This is music.  My music.

					VITO
		  We're closed.

					BUGGIN' OUT
		  You're closed alright, till you get
		  some Black people up on that wall.

Sal grabs his Mickey Mantle bat from underneath the counter
and brings it down on Radio Raheem's box, again and again
and again.  The music stops.

CLOSE--RADIO RAHEEM'S BOX

Radio Raheem's pride and joy is smashed to smithereens.
It's going to the junkyard quick.

ANGLE--PIZZERIA

There is an eerie quiet as everyone is frozen, surprised by
the suddenness of Sal's action, the swings of his Mickey
Mantle bat.  All look at Radio Raheem and realize what is
about to happen.

ANGLE--RADIO RAHEEM

Radio Raheem screams, he goes crazy.

					RADIO RAHEEM
		  My music!

Radio Raheem picks Sal up from behind the counter and starts
to choke his ass.  Radio Raheem's prized possession--his
box, the only thing he owned of value--his box, the one
thing that gave him any sense of worth--has been smashed to
bits. (Radio Raheem, like many Black youth, is the victim of
materialism and a misplaced sense of values.) Now he doesn't
give a fuck anymore.  He's gonna make Sal pay with his life.

Vito and Pino jump on Radio Raheem, who only tightens his
grip around Sal's neck.  Buggin' Out tries to help his
friend.  Mookie just stands and watches as Ahmad, Cee,
Punchy, and Ella cheerlead.

The movie version of the scene:

The movie reflects a number of directing choices Spike Lee made not reflected in the script. A lot more dialogue, yelling and swearing, extending the buildup toward Sal’s destructive act. The use of ‘dutch angle’ camera shots, visually reinforcing the imbalance at work in the rising conflict. Close up after close up after close up. None of that indicated in the script.

What is in place in the script is interesting: Spike Lee very specifically comments on the interior life of Radio Raheem:

Radio Raheem’s prized possession–his box, the only thing he owned of value–his box, the one thing that gave him any sense of worth–has been smashed to bits… Now he doesn’t give a fuck anymore. He’s gonna make Sal pay with his life.

Not only that, Lee provides some social commentary:

(Radio Raheem, like many Black youth, is the victim of materialism and a misplaced sense of values.)

Not that I would recommend doing a ton of the former and any of the latter in a spec script, this proves once again that the supposed ‘rule’ — A screenplay cannot include ‘unfilmables’ — is simply wrong. As screenwriters, we have the right to (A) comment on the moment and (B) go inside a character to get a sense of what they are feeling. We have to be judicious in doing that, but it is one of the tools in our writer’s resource. And if you read contemporary movie scripts, especially spec scripts that sell or make the annual Black List, you will see writers providing commentary in scene description when they feel the need to drive home a point.

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: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”

December 24th, 2014 by

A great fight scene from the 2000 movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, screenplay by Hui-Ling Wang and James Schamus and Kuo Jung Tsai, book by Du Lu Wang.

IMDb plot summary: Two warriors in pursuit of a stolen sword and a notorious fugitive are led to an impetuous, physically skilled, adolescent nobleman’s daughter, who is at a crossroads in her life.

The combatants: Jen Yu (Ziyi Zhang) and Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh).

INT. YUAN COURTYARD - DAY

Jen soars out to the front courtyard where the guards are
still practicing.

They raise their weapons at the sight of an intruder.

				YU
			(calling out)
		Jen!

Jen greets Yu with the Green Destiny.

				YU
		Everyone out.  Shut the doors.

The men leave.

				YU
		Fine... the friendship is over.

Yu scoops up a weapon from one of many lying around and
begins her battle with Jen.

Yu uses every weapon that's available against Jen but none
are any match for the Green Destiny.

After slicing through another set of Yu's weapons, Jen looks
admiringly at the Green Destiny in her hands.

				YU
		Don't touch it!  That's Li Mu Bai's
		sword.

				JEN
		Come and get it if you can.

				YU
		Without the Green Destiny, you are
		nothing.

				JEN
		Don't be a sore loser.  Go ahead.
		Take your pick.  I'll wait.  Go
		ahead.

Yu picks up a huge broad sword and attacks.  Just as the
Green Destiny slices it in half, Yu holds the broken blade
at Jen's neck.  She pauses before hurting Jen, then pulls
back.

				YU
		Give me the sword.

Here is the scene in the movie:

Well… the summation of the fighting, all of those moves, summed up in a scant few paragraphs. But when the movie’s choreographer Woo-ping Yuen staged the combat and has also handled The Matrix and the Kill Bill films, I guess you pretty much just let him figure it out with the director.

That said, this is a script that was going to be produced with the knowledge the fight scenes would require heavy staging and rehearsal, so the writers could afford to provide such minimal description. For those of us writing spec scripts, we need to provide more. Not a blow by blow account, but enough to convey the length and visual nature of each fight as well as the emotional undercurrent.

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: “Cool Hand Luke”

December 17th, 2014 by

A key scene from the 1967 movie Cool Hand Luke, screenplay by Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson, novel by Donn Pearce.

IMDb plot summary: A man refuses to conform to life in a rural prison.

               EXT. BARRACKS CLOSE ON LUKE AS GLOVE SMASHES INTO HIS FACE 
               (DAY)

               and Luke falls back into the dirt. He's hurt, startled, but 
               grins. We HEAR a CHEER from the men O.S., as he gets up. He 
               is stripped to the waist, wears huge 16 oz. boxing gloves.

               FULLER ANGLE

               showing Dragline similarly dressed. They are squared off in 
               the yard, surrounded by YELLING men who want blood. It is a 
               release from the sexual tension built up by the night before. 
               The guards stand in the guard boxes, watching. The Captain 
               sits up on his porch, so he can see without being too obvious.

               Luke gets up and manages a lunging right across to Dragline's 
               Adam's apple. Dragline is momentarily staggered but counters 
               with a terrible clubbing blow that mashes Luke's gloves into 
               his face, knocking him to the ground. Time is called for the 
               round.

               LUKE AND OTHERS BEHIND HIM

               as he gets to his feet.

                                     TRAMP
                         Why don't you just stay there? He's 
                         only gonna knock you down agin.

                                     ALIBI
                         It's not your fault. He's just too 
                         big.

                                     SOCIETY RED
                         Let him hit you in the nose, get 
                         some blood flowing. Maybe they'll 
                         stop it before he kills you.

                                     LUKE
                              (shaking his head, 
                              grinning)
                         I don't want to frighten him.

               The second round is called and Luke advances toward Dragline.

               TWO SHOT LUKE, DRAGLINE

               circling. Luke has to get in his shot before Dragline gets 
               too close and clubs him again. He feints a punch that moves 
               Dragline off-balance and winds up for a big one, but Dragline 
               smashes him backhand. Luke hits the dirt, the men SCREAM AND 
               YELL. Wiping some blood from his mouth, Luke rises again. He 
               is dizzy. Dragline smacks him down again.

               THE MEN

               SHOUTING, SHRIEKING, they have blood in their eyes, releasing 
               their tensions.

               INTERCUT THE VARIOUS REACTIONS

               as the fight continues. The Captain on his porch rocks and 
               spits dry little spouts of wind, Godfrey, impassive, waiting 
               in his guard house. The YELLING gradually subsides as Dragline 
               continues to smash Luke, who keeps getting up.

               ANGLE ON DRAGLINE

               Without relish, he pokes Luke down again. Now there is no 
               cheering, no yelling, just silence.

               ANGLE ON CAPTAIN

               as he gets up and walks down to the wire where he can see 
               what is happening. The silence disturbs him.

               ON LUKE

               He rises, grinning and winds up to throw another punch. But 
               the act of lifting his giant glove is a Herculean task. 
               Seconds go by in which he tries to raise the glove high enough 
               to launch a punch.

               ON DRAGLINE

               waiting, gloves at waist level, poised.

                                     DRAGLINE
                              (low)
                         Ommana pop you one easy. Stay down.

               He pops Luke who reels, goes down on a knee and then slowly 
               rises, rises. Dragline is honestly agonized.

                                     DRAGLINE
                         I'm gonna kill you, you go on...

                                     LUKE
                         That's what you're gonna have to do.

               ANGLE ON CAPTAIN

               concerned.

               ANGLE ON BOSS GODFREY

               impassive.

               ANGLE ON DRAGLINE

               He raises his fists. But Luke is up again. Dragline realizes 
               he'll have to kill him to beat him. After a long moment, 
               Dragline drops his hands to his sides, looks back toward 
               Godfrey and the captain and then starts walking to the 
               barracks, fast.

               ANGLE ON LUKE

               He looks after him and reaches up to wipe the blood away, 
               still grinning.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Several differences, most notably the repeated suggestion for Luke to “stay down,” driving home his stubborn refusal to give up. The fight is extended in the movie, numerous moments in which Dragline clobbers Luke to the ground – again reinforcing the point of the scene, a metaphor for the entire story: Luke will not bow to authority or what is expected.

It is instructive to go through the movie scene, shot by shot, a deft use of 1st and 3rd person POV, as well as proximity, cutting from the prisoners to the guards, back and forth. It provides a perspective on the fight that widens its influence and makes an influence on the Captain and the other prison employees, setting up much of what transpires later.

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: “Collateral”

December 10th, 2014 by

A scene from the 2004 movie Collateral, written by Stuart Beattie.

IMDb plot summary: A cab driver finds himself the hostage of an engaging contract killer as he makes his rounds from hit to hit during one night in Los Angeles. He must find a way to save both himself and one last victim.

Here is the scene from the script

      He is head-butting the horn. BEEEEP. BEEP-BEEP. And he checks   
      the mirror. This time when he looks, he sees...

      YOUNG WHITE GUYS. 20-25. They were on the sidewalk. Now they
      detour into the alley and approach the distressed cab from the
      back, shielding their eyes from Max's flashing lights.

                           MAX
                 Oh. Oh, thank God! Hey, hey, man,
                 help me out here!

                           WHITE GUY #1
                 Yo, whassup?

                           MAX
                     (fast, stumbling)
                 I got my, my hands taped to the
                 steering wheel, here, by this guy,
                 who's taped me in the car, 'cause he's
                 up in the building somewhere...

      CLOSER, now, the four are in baggies, hoodies and tattooed with
      lightning bolts on their necks, swastikas on chests, one has
      "5150" tattooed on his shaven eyebrow (police code for
      emotionally disturbed)...

                           WHITE GUY #2
                 You all trapped in there and shit?

                           MAX
                 ...yeah, he's coming back. Hurry.
                 Get me loose so I can call the cops...

      WHITE GUY #1 nods...and pulls a chromed .380 and points it at
      Max.

                           WHITE GUY #1                                  
                 Fuck that, man, gimme your wallet.

      The others have walked off down the alley, laughing. One tosses    
      a beer bottle that smashes. Utter disbelief from Max...

                           MAX
                 Are you kidding me?

                           WHITE GUY #1
                 I will fuck you up! Hand it over.

                           MAX
                     (beat)
                 My hands are taped to the damn
                 steering wheel!

      It takes a moment for WHITE GUY #1 to process this. He steps to
      the window, presses the .380 against Max's cheek. It's utterly
      terrifying, everything happening fast:

                           MAX (CONT'D)
                 ...don't shoot me, don't shoot me...

                           WHITE GUY #1
                 Then get your ass up, up...

      Max pulls himself up by the steering wheel, trying to get his
      butt off the seat to give the Young Man access. The White Guy
      #1 gropes for Max's back pocket, trying to get the wallet,
      pressing the gun to his face, the other guys down the alley,
      turn the corner.

      White Guy #1 pulls Max's wallet, pockets it...

      ...and pauses, seeing Vincent's briefcase on the back seat.

      He yanks open the back door, grabs Vincent's briefcase, too, and
      walks off after his friends. White Guys #3 and #4 turned the
      corner. White Guy #2 lingers.

      Max, still taped, is shaken. He can't believe what happened.
      He looks through the windshield at...

      WHITE GUY #1

      ...walking off, cocky as hell, about to vanish into the night...

      BACK OF WHITE GUY #1

                           VINCENT (O.S.)
                 Yo' homie...

      White Guy #1 turns, to see the silhouette of Vincent. He raises
      his .380 side-handed, like he sees gangsters do on MTV. White
      Guy #2 joins him.

                           VINCENT (CONT'D)
                     (even)
                 That my briefcase...?

      White Guy #1 approaches Vincent from the front...#2 from
      Vincent's left.

                            WHITE GUY #2
                 May-be.  And what the fuck else you
                 got?

      He closes on Vincent with the .380, held high and on the side.
      Vincent's left slams aside #1's .380. Draws and FIRES from the
      hip, putting TWO ROUNDS into #1. HAMMERS-ON TWO ROUNDS to the
      sternum, pivots. ONE to the head of #2. All in 1.6 seconds.

      White Guy #2, falling backwards, is dead before he hits the
      ground. #1 never saw it coming. Vincent picks up his case,
      retrieves something from #1's pocket, puts one more into the            
      head of #1 on the way back to the cab...

      ...where Max saw it all. Frozen in horror. Astonished.

      The rear door opens. Vincent hefts his briefcase into the back
      seat. He gets into the front.

      Vincent sits for a moment, staring off, not looking at Max.
      Maybe ready to kill him.

      Vincent raises something into view. Max's wallet. He tosses it
      in Max's lap.

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

Script To Screen: “Clerks”

December 3rd, 2014 by

A scene from the 1994 movie Clerks., written by Kevin Smith.

IMDb plot summary: A day in the lives of two convenience clerks named Dante and Randal as they annoy customers, discuss movies, and play hockey on the store roof.

Here is Jay and Silent Bob at their dialogue best. Well… Jay at least.


               EXT: CONVENIENCE STORE. DAY

               JAY, SILENT BOB and OLAF lean against wall.

                                     JAY
                         "Not in me." That's what she says.  
                         I gotta pull out and spank it to get 
                         it on. So I blow a nut on her belly, 
                         and I get out of there, just as my 
                         uncle walks in. It was such a close 
                         call. I tell you what, though, I 
                         don't care if she is my cousin, I'm 
                         gonna knock those boots again tonight.

               TWO GIRLS join them.

                                     JAY
                         Oh shit, look who it is. The human 
                         vacuum.

                                     GIRL 1
                         Scumbag. What are you doing?

                                     JAY
                         Nothing. Just hanging out with Silent 
                         Bob and his cousin.

                                     GIRL 1
                              (to SILENT BOB)
                         He's your cousin?

                                     JAY
                         Check this out, he's from Russia.

                                     GIRL 1
                         No way.

                                     JAY
                         I swear to God. Silent Bob, am I 
                         lying?

               SILENT BOB SHAKES HIS HEAD:

                                     JAY
                         See? And Silent Bob never told a lie 
                         in his life.

                                     GIRL 2
                         What part of Russia?

                                     JAY
                         I don't fucking know. What am I, his 
                         biographer?
                              (to OLAF)
                         Olaf, what part of Russia are you 
                         from?

               OLAF looks quizzically at SILENT BOB.

                                     SILENT BOB
                              (in Russian)
                         Home.

                                     OLAF
                              (comprehending)
                         Moscow.

                                     GIRL 1
                         He only speaks Russian?

                                     JAY
                         He knows some English, but he can't 
                         not speak it good like we do.

                                     GIRL 2
                         Is he staying here?

                                     JAY
                         He's moving to the big city next 
                         week. He wants to be a metal singer.

                                     GIRL 1
                         No way!

                                     JAY
                         Swear.
                              (to OLAF)
                         Olaf, metal!

               OLAF makes a metal face.

                                     JAY
                         That's his fucking metal face.
                              (to OLAF)
                         Olaf, girls nice?

               OLAF looks the girls up and down.

                                     OLAF
                         Skrelnick.

                                     JAY
                              (laughs)
                         That's fucked up.

                                     GIRL 1
                         What did he say?

                                     JAY
                         I don't know, man. He's a fucking 
                         character.

                                     GIRL 2
                         He really wants to play metal?

                                     JAY
                         He's got his own band in Moscow.  
                         It's called "Fuck Your Yankee Blue 
                         Jeans" or something like that.

                                     GIRL 1
                         That doesn't sound metal.

                                     JAY
                         You gotta hear him sing.
                              (to OLAF)
                         Olaf, "Berserker!"

               OLAF laughs and shakes his head.

                                     JAY
                         Come on, man, "Berserker!"

                                     GIRL 2
                         Does he sing in English or Russian?

                                     JAY
                         English.
                              (to OLAF)
                         Come on, "Berserker!" Girls think 
                         sexy.

                                     OLAF
                              (relents)
                         Da. Da.

                                     JAY
                         He's gonna sing it. This is too funny.

                                     OLAF
                              (in broken English)
                         MY LOVE FOR YOU IS LIKE A TRUCK 
                         BERSERKER! WOULD YOU LIKE SOME MAKING 
                         FUCK? BERSERKER!

                                     JAY
                              (laughing)
                         That's fucking funny, man!

                                     GIRL 1
                         Did he say "making fuck?"

                                     JAY
                         Wait, there's more.
                              (to OLAF)
                         Olaf: sing...
                              (makes pot-smoking 
                              face)

                                     OLAF
                              (nods in understanding)
                         MY LOVE FOR YOU IS LIKE A ROCK 
                         BERSERKER! WOULD YOU LIKE TO SMOKE 
                         SOME POT? BERSERKER!

               OLAF busts a crimson metal sneer and cackles deeply.

                                                                    CUT TO:

Here is the scene in the movie:

A few changes, the main one being a cut away to the interior of the store, then back to Olaf singing, and substituting the word “cock” for “pot”. My guess is Smith did the first one to cover something in what they shot from the original scene and the second change probably through improv, the substitute funnier than “pot”.

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: “Citizen Kane”

November 26th, 2014 by

A memorable scene from the 1941 movie Citizen Kane, original screen play by Herman J. Mankiewicz & Orson Welles.

IMDb plot summary: Following the death of a publishing tycoon, news reporters scramble to discover the meaning of his final utterance.

Setup: Kane’s wife Susan has just left him.

Here is the scene from the script:

INT. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE SUSAN'S BEDROOM - XANADU - NIGHT - 1929

The housekeeper, Mrs. Tinsdall, and a couple of maids are near the door but are too
afraid to be in front of it.  From inside can be heard a terrible banging and
crashing.  Raymond hurries into scene, opens the door and goes in.

INT. SUSAN'S BEDROOM - XANADU - 1929

Kane, in a truly terrible and absolutely silent rage, is literally breaking up the
room - yanking pictures, hooks and all off the wall, smashing them to bits - ugly,
gaudy pictures - Susie's pictures in Susie's bad taste.  Off of occasional tables,
bureaus, he sweeps Susie's whorish accumulation of bric-a-brac.

Raymond stands in the doorway watching him.  Kane says nothing.  He continues with
tremendous speed and surprising strength, still wordlessly, tearing the room to
bits.  The curtains (too frilly - overly pretty) are pulled off the windows in a
single gesture, and from the bookshelves he pulls down double armloads of cheap
novels - discovers a half-empty bottle of liquor and dashes it across the room.
Finally he stops.  Susie's cozy little chamber is an incredible shambles all around
him.

He stands for a minute breathing heavily, and his eye lights on a hanging what-not
in a corner which had escaped his notice.  Prominent on its center shelf is the
little glass ball with the snowstorm in it.  He yanks it down.  Something made of
china breaks, but not the glass ball.  It bounces on the carpet and rolls to his
feet, the snow in a flurry.  His eye follows it.  He stoops to pick it up - can't
make it.  Raymond picks it up for him; hands it to him.  Kane takes it sheepishly -
looks at it - moves painfully out of the room into the corridor.

INT. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE SUSAN'S BEDROOM - XANADU - 1929

Kane comes out of the door.  Mrs. Tinsdall has been joined now by a fairly sizable
turnout of servants.  They move back away from Kane, staring at him.  Raymond is in
the doorway behind Kane.  Kane looks at the glass ball.

					KANE
				(without turning)
			Close the door, Raymond.

					RAYMOND
			Yes, sir.
				(he closes it)

					KANE
			Lock it - and keep it locked.

Raymond locks the door and comes to his side.  There is a long pause - servants
staring in silence.  Kane gives the glass ball a gentle shake and starts another
snowstorm.

					KANE
			Raymond -
				(he is almost in a trance)

					RAYMOND
			Yes, sir -

One of the younger servants giggles and is hushed up.  Kane shakes the ball again.
Another flurry of snow.  He watches the flakes settle - then looks up.  Finally,
taking in the pack of servants and something of the situations, he puts the glass
ball in his coat pocket.  He speaks very quietly to Raymond, so quietly it only
seems he's talking to himself.

					KANE
			Keep it locked.

He slowly walks off down the corridor, the servants giving way to let him pass, and
watching him as he goes.  He is an old, old man!

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Really interesting to compare script to screen. Substantially the same and interesting insight into the focus of his rage, Susan’s “whorish accumulation of bric-a-brac.” I’ve seen the movie at least a half-dozen times and didn’t grasp until now that amidst Susan’s novels, Kane discovers a “half-empty bottle of liquor” – never made that connection from that moment [1:10 in the clip above].

But some key differences. First, the way the snow globe ends up in Kane’s hand. It doesn’t roll to the floor and Raymond doesn’t hand it to Kane as in the script. Rather Kane freezes his destruction when he notices the object on a side table. Picks it up himself. Gives it a shake.

And then a big shift: At that precise moment, Kane whispers, “Rosebud.” And that is the only dialogue in the movie version of the scene.

Why do you think Welles dropped those exchanges between Kane and Raymond? My guess: It’s unnecessary. We know he will cut Susan out of his life. Besides that dialogue distracts from the remarkable moment of Kane standing with the snow globe. First, we saw his rage, a raw emotion begun when Kane was yanked away from his idyllic Colorado home as a child. Now as he stares at the globe, the snow reminding him of that wonderful time in his life, tears well up in his eyes, and so rage gives way to sadness.

That moment is the key to grasping the wound to Kane’s psyche and which fuels everything he does as an adult to distract himself from that pain.

What else do you see in comparing script to screen in this scene from Citizen Kane?

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.