Script To Screen: “The Way Way Back”

July 30th, 2014 by

A scene from the 2013 movie The Way Way Back, written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

Plot Summary: Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

This scene feature one of the movie’s co-writers and co-directors Rash in the role of Lewis.

EXT. WATERPARK - RENTAL BOOTH - DAY

Owen and Duncan approach LEWIS, working behind the counter. 
He’s quite a curmudgeon, pale as can be, and his Water Wizz 
employee shirt is WAY too big for him.

OWEN

Lewis, hook up my man, Duncan, here
with one of our finest rentals.

LEWIS

Some kid threw up near Crazy Tubes.

OWEN

Whoa, let’s try not to impress him
all at once.

LEWIS

That will not be a challenge.

OWEN

Lewis is kind of over this place.

LEWIS

I told you. I’m not long for here.

OWEN

No, I remember that conversation.
In 2003, 5, 11, April, two days ago...

LEWIS

I’ve just got things I want to do.
OWEN

Prove it. Without thinking, rattle
off three. Go.


Owen smiles at Duncan. He loves goading Lewis.

LEWIS 
(complying)
I don’t know. See New Mexico. Invent 
something. Become a storm chaser...

OWEN

You had me until number three. I
think you have to go to school for 
that.

LEWIS 
(scoffing)
“Hey, look. There’s a storm.” 
“Where?” “Over there.” “Cool. 
Let’s go get it.” “Got it.”

OWEN

Wait. Are you chasing them or
capturing...?

Lewis waves him off, pulls out a pair of ragged-looking swim 
trunks from below the counter, hands them to Duncan.

LEWIS

These don’t have any mesh, so
you’re basically going “commando.” 
Watch sitting. You’re junk will 
fall out.

OWEN

And like that, you’re impressed.
And, grossed out.

Off Duncan,...

Here is the movie version of the scene:

The scene follows the script with little variance. So ask yourself: What’s the point of this scene? Primarily to introduce Lewis and set into motion his subplot. Lewis is not only a funny character, the fact that he is “kind of over this place” puts him in a unique position in the story. On the one hand, he sets expectations for Duncan’s water park experience very low due to his apparent negative view of the place. On the other hand, he provides a mentor dynamic to Owen because while Owen is stuck in his life, tethered to this dumpy amusement park, at least Lewis is voicing a desire to leave. By movie’s end, we get a sense that while Duncan has grown as a character, so has Owen, the implication being he may be on his own path to leave the place.

That issue — leaving or staying — is the central theme of the Lewis subplot and it gets it start in this scene.

Wonderful little movie, highly recommended!

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: “Lost In Translation”

July 23rd, 2014 by

The ending scene from the 2003 movie Lost In Translation, written by Sofia Coppola.

Plot Summary: A faded movie star and a neglected young woman form an unlikely bond after crossing paths in Tokyo.

Here is the scene from the script:

               INT. CAR - DAY

               In the backseat, Bob leans back on the little doily.

               The car pulls away.

               Around the corner, he looks down a crowded alley and sees 
               Charlotte's blonde hair.

                                     BOB
                         Can you pull over a second?

               The DRIVER, wearing white cloth gloves, pulls the car over 
               slowly. Bob tries to open the door, it won't open, he has 
               to wait for the automatic doors to open for him (slowly).

               EXT. TOKYO STREETS - DAY

               Bob gets out and rushes down the street to where he saw 
               Charlotte. The street is crowded with JAPANESE PEOPLE, and 
               different colored umbrellas, (it's sunny out with a light 
               rain).

               Music blasts from speakers on the street, and there is some 
               promo going on with GIRLS handing out little cologne samples. 
               Bob looks around for her, but only sees dark hair, umbrellas, 
               and super tan JAPANESE KIDS.

               In the distance an umbrella moves to reveal Charlotte.

                                     BOB
                         CHARLOTTE!

               But she can't hear him over the loudspeaker. He rushes to 
               her.

               C.U. she turns and we see she is crying.

               The music swells. He embraces her, holding her close to him 
               in the crowd.

                                     BOB
                         Why are you crying?

                                     CHARLOTTE
                              (sincere)
                         I'll miss you.

               He kisses her, hugs her good-bye.

                                     BOB
                         I know, I'm going to miss you, too.

               He holds her close.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               Charlotte watches Bob as he reaches his car, he turns and 
               looks at her.

               She smiles at him, and is lost in the crowd.

               Bob gets into his car.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               Charlotte walks with the crowd as they go on their way.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               INT. CAR - DAY

               Back in the Presidential, alone, Bob leans against the little 
               doily.  They drive off.

               He looks out the window, Bob's happy he's going home, he's 
               happy he came to Tokyo.

               Bob's P.O.V.-  Tokyo goes past his window.

                                                             FADE TO BLACK:

Here is the movie version of the scene:

There are some subtle, but important differences between the script and the movie, and I encourage you to compare the two and cite those changes. Let me focus on the biggie. Instead of this exchange:

BOB: Why are you crying?
CHARLOTTE: I’ll miss you.
BOB: I know, I’m going to miss you, too.

There is this: Bob whispering something to Charlotte. So we not only get a dialogue cut (three lines), we also have a mystery introduced into the story: What did Bob tell her?

There are all sorts of theories, many of which you can find here in this Vulture article.

As for me, I’d prefer not to know the answer. I like how Bob’s unknown comments frame the respective reactions of the characters as they leave each other. In the movie, Charlotte does seem to have a lighter mood, consonant with the line in the script “she smiles at him.” But I’m not so sure Bob’s mood in the movie reflects what is written in the script: “Bob’s happy he’s going home, he’s happy he came to Tokyo.” Check out the very ending of the scene as Bob is driven through the streets of Tokyo. Does he look “happy” to you?

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 Cider House Rules”

July 16th, 2014 by

The ending sequence from the 1999 movie The Cider House Rules, screenplay by John Irving based on his novel.

Plot Summary: A compassionate young man (Homer), raised in an orphanage and trained to be a doctor there, decides to leave to see the world.

Here that young man returns to the orphanage:

               INT. MOVING TRAIN - PASSENGER CAR - NIGHT

               A CONDUCTOR, taking tickets, comes to Homer, who is better 
               dressed than we've ever seen him; he is looking at his sober 
               reflection in the black window-glass of the night train when 
               the conductor gets his attention. When the conductor moves 
               on, Homer takes Angela's letter out of his breast pocket; he 
               skips ahead to the end.

                                     ANGELA (V.O.)
                         Dr. Larch often wondered how the 
                         world was treating you.

               EXT. ST. CLOUD'S - GRAVEYARD - AFTERNOON

                                     ANGELA (V.O.)
                         He talked a lot about you, hoping 
                         you would be of use, whatever you 
                         were up to.

               Angela and Buster and Mary Agnes and Edna carry Larch's 
               coffin; they set it down by the raw hole. The pile of fresh 
               dirt stands out against the new snow; the hole is black 
               against the new white.

                                     EDNA (O.S.)
                         "Oh, Lord, support us all the day 
                         long..."

               We see the wheelbarrow with the gravestone.

                                     EDNA (O.S.)
                         "...until the shadows lengthen and 
                         the evening comes, and the busy world 
                         is hushed, and the fever of life is 
                         over, and our work is done."

               INT. GIRLS' DIVISION - NIGHT

               We see the faces of the girls praying for Larch (Mary Agnes, 
               too) as Edna finishes her favorite prayer.

                                     EDNA
                         "Then, in Thy mercy grant us a safe 
                         lodging, and a holy rest, and peace 
                         at the last."

               INT. MOVING TRAIN - PASSENGER CAR - NIGHT

               Camera closes on Homer, sleeping to the sound of the rocking 
               train. Angela's letter lies in his lap.

                                     THE GIRLS (O.S.)
                         Amen! Amen! Amen!

               EXT. ST. CLOUD'S - TRAIN STATION - EARLY MORNING

               The train stops, blowing snow. Homer steps off the train 
               carrying a suitcase and Dr. Larch's bag. The disapproving 
               stationmaster is still disapproving. Music plays Over, 
               something triumphant.

               EXT. ST. CLOUD'S - THE HILL - EARLY MORNING

               Homer makes his way up the hill toward the orphanage. Music 
               Over.

               EXT. ORPHANAGE - EARLY MORNING

               Edna is breaking up fights; this time, instead of fighting 
               over snowballs, the orphans are fighting over their pumpkins. 
               Suddenly Homer tops the brow of the hill and they all see 
               him. Buster is the first to catch sight of Homer; he runs 
               toward him. Mary Agnes also sees Homer; she immediately turns 
               away and runs inside. Music FADES OUT Over.

               INT. LAVATORY - EARLY MORNING

               Mary Agnes crashes into the bathroom and stumbles up to the 
               mirror; she starts to fix herself up with shaking hands.

               INT. ORPHANAGE, FRONT HALL - EARLY MORNING

               Everyone has heard the news; they come on the run. The 
               children flock around Homer, hugging him. Homer takes Angela 
               and Edna in his arms. Mary Agnes joins the group. Homer takes 
               in how changed, how attractive she is. They smile awkwardly 
               at each other.

               INT. BOYS' DIVISION - EVENING

               Homer's suitcase is open on the bed; we see Homer's hands as 
               he begins to unpack. Smaller hands reach in and root through 
               the clothes.

                                     CURLY (O.S.)
                         Did you bring something for me?

               Curly continues his search. Homer thinks for a second; then 
               reaches into his pocket and pulls out the piece of pale-green 
               glass.

                                     HOMER
                         You know what? I did.

               Homer hands the piece of glass to Curly.

                                     HOMER
                         It's from the ocean. It's for you.

               Curly is duly impressed; he walks away to examine his new 
               treasure. Homer continues unpacking. He pulls his X ray out 
               and puts it aside.

                                     BUSTER
                         What are you doing here?

               Homer turns to see Buster, Mary Agnes, Angela, and Edna in 
               the doorway.

                                     MARY AGNES
                         We made up a room for you.

                                     ANGELA
                         Wouldn't you be more comfortable by 
                         yourself?

               Homer smiles; he nods.

               Angela and Mary Agnes start to put Homer's things back in 
               his bag. Edna picks up the X ray and looks at it with a somber 
               expression.

                                     EDNA
                         Homer, do you know what this is?

                                     HOMER
                         Sure. It's my heart.

                                     ANGELA
                              (shakes her head)
                         Actually, it's Fuzzy's. There's 
                         nothing wrong with your heart.

                                     HOMER
                         Fuzzy's?!

                                     EDNA
                         Dr. Larch wanted to keep you out of 
                         the war, Homer--that's why he did 
                         it. That's why he told you it was 
                         yours.

               Homer is stunned; he puts his hand to his heart.

                                     ANGELA
                         I think he worried about his own 
                         heart. He said it would never stand 
                         up to Homer Wells going off to war.

               Homer takes that in; he nods. Mary Agnes touches him 
               sympathetically.

               INT. LARCH'S OFFICE - NIGHT

               Homer looks at his fake diplomas; they are now framed and 
               hanging on the office wall. Homer surveys the office, as if 
               for the first time; he sits down in the desk chair, as if 
               slowly getting used to his new position.

               INT. BOYS' DIVISION - NIGHT

               Homer reads to the boys from "David Copperfield". While his 
               voice is strong--positive, optimistic, certainly reassuring 
               to the boys--there is in the conclusion of the chapter 
               something that distracts him. He seems to hesitate; he misses 
               a line or two, and perhaps he purposely skips one or two 
               others. (Possibly Homer's eyes wander ahead, to the title of 
               the next chapter: "I Make Another Beginning.")

                                     HOMER
                         "Thus I began my new life, in a new 
                         name, and with everything new about 
                         me... I felt... like one in a dream... 
                         The remembrance of that life is 
                         fraught with so much... want of 
                         hope... Whether it lasted for a year, 
                         or more, or less, I do not know. I 
                         only know that it was, and ceased to 
                         be; and... there I leave it."

               Homer stops and looks at the boys' faces.

                                     CURLY
                         What happens next?

               Homer smiles.

                                     HOMER
                         That's tomorrow, Curly. Let's mot 
                         give the story away.

               Homer puts out the lights and leaves the boys in the familiar 
               semi-darkness. Seconds, later, the closed door to the hall 
               is flung open, flooding the room with light from the hall, 
               and Homer, dressed in his long white laboratory coat and 
               looking every inch the doctor, delivers his best imitation 
               of Larch's popular blessing.

                                     HOMER
                         Good night, you Princes of Maine! 
                         You Kings of New England!

               On Copperfield and Steerforth and Curly as the door to the 
               hall is closed and semi-darkness prevails in the room again. 
               Copperfield, smiling, shuts his eyes. After a second, the 
               wide-eyed Steerforth shuts his eyes, too. Then Curly.

               The last to close his eyes is Buster.

                                                             FADE TO BLACK:

                                         THE END

Here is most of the movie version of the scenes:

This is a powerful movie with some stellar performances, most notably Michael Caine, and a compelling story as penned by Irving. Given the fact Irving is a novelist — to my knowledge this is his only screenwriting credit — it’s interesting to study his approach to screenplay style. His stage direction, including camera shots and music cues, is typical of scripts from decades earlier (the 70s and before). Given how closely the movie hews to the script, I suspect director Lasse Hallström worked closely with Irving to make sure the script reflected their shared vision of the movie. In any event, if you haven’t seen The Cider House Rules, watch it.

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 Princess Bride”

July 9th, 2014 by

A memorable scene from the 1987 movie The Princess Bride [screenplay by William Goldman based on his novel].

Setup: The Princess Bride on the verge of marrying the evil Prince Humperdinck while Westley, Indigo Montoya, and Fezzik try to get there to stop the proceedings.

Buttercup and Humperdinck kneel before the Clergyman. Behind
them sit the mumbling old KING AND QUEEN. Standing in the
back is Count Rugen.

FOUR GUARDS are in position flanking the chapel door.

                         IMPRESSIVE CLERGYMAN
                  (clears his throat,
                  begins to speak)
             Mawidge...mawidge is what bwings
             us togewer today...

He has an impediment that would stop a clock.

                         IMPRESSIVE CLERGYMAN
             Mawidge, the bwessed awwangement,
             that dweam wiffim a dweam...

And now, from outside the castle, there begins to come a
commotion. And then--

                         YELLIN
                  (off-screen)
             Stand your ground, men. Stand
             your ground.

                                            CUT TO:

THE BRUTES AND YELLIN

by the gate, for it is indeed they who are making the
commotion, frightened, pointing.

                         YELLIN
             Stand your ground.

                                            CUT TO:

THEIR P.O.V.:

And it is a bit unnerving -- a GIANT seems to be floating
toward them out of the darkness, a Giant in a strange cloak,
and with a voice that would crumble walls.

                         FEZZIK
                  (deep and booming)
             I AM THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS.
             THERE WILL BE NO SURVIVORS.

                                            CUT TO:

FEZZIK

and he seems to be floating because he's standing in the
wheelbarrow, as Inigo, hidden behind him, busts a gut by
pushing it and supporting Westley.

                         INIGO
             Now?

                         WESTLEY
             Not yet.

                                            CUT TO:

THE GIANT FLOATING CLOSER

                         FEZZIK
             MY MEN ARE HERE, AND I AM HERE,
             BUT SOON YOU WILL NOT BE HERE

                                            CUT TO:

YELLIN

keeping the Brutes in position, or trying to, shouting
orders, instructions and as yet the Brutes hold. Now --

                                            CUT TO:

INIGO AND WESTLEY

Inigo struggles bravely under their combined weight --

                         INIGO
             Now?

                         WESTLEY
             Light him.

                                            CUT TO:

THE BRUTES

as the Giant bursts suddenly, happily into flames.

                         FEZZIK
                  (roaring)
             THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS TAKES NO
             SURVIVORS. ALL YOUR WORST
             NIGHTMARES ARE ABOUT TO COME TRUE.

                                            CUT TO:

THE CHAPEL, where The Impressive Clergyman plows on.

                         IMPRESSIVE CLERGYMAN
             ... Ven wuv, twoo wuv, wiw fowwow
             you fowever..

                                            CUT TO:

PRINCE HUMPERDINCK, turning quickly, giving a sharp nod to
Count Rugen, who immediately takes off out of the chapel
with the Four Guards as we

                                            CUT TO:

FEZZIK, flaming and scary as hell.

                         FEZZIK
             THE DREAD PIRATE ROBERTS IS HERE
             FOR YOUR SOULS!

                                            CUT TO:

YELLIN

as suddenly the Brutes just scream and take off in wild
panic --

                         YELLIN
             Stay where you are. I said stay
             where you are!

                                            CUT TO:

INSIDE THE CHAPEL

                         IMPRESSIVE CLERGYMAN
             ... so tweasuwe your vruv..

                         HUMPERDINCK
             Skip to the end.

                         IMPRESSIVE CLERGYMAN
             Have you the wing?

As Humperdinck whips out the ring, the screams are very loud
outside.

                         BUTTERCUP
             Here comes my Westley now.

                                            CUT TO:

Fezzik, as he pulls off the holocaust cloak.

                         WESTLEY
             FEZZIK, the portcullis.

And FEZZIK rushes forward, grabbing the portcullis, which is
indeed closing quickly.

FEZZIK grabs the gate: and swings the tonnage back upward.
Yellin just watches in fear.

                                            CUT TO:

THE CHAPEL

as Humperdinck shoves the ring on Buttercup's finger

                         HUMPERDINCK
             Your Westley is dead.

Buttercup only smiles, shakes her head.

                         HUMPERDINCK
             I killed him myself.

                         BUTTERCUP
                  (never more serene)
             Then why is there fear behind
             your eyes?

                                            CUT TO:

PRINCE HUMPERDINCK

And she's right. It's there.

                                            CUT TO:
YELLIN

pressed against the main gate. Westley, Inigo, and FEZZIK
close in.

                         WESTLEY
             Give us the gate key.

                         YELLIN
                  (every ounce of
                  honesty he's got)
             I have no gate key.

                         INIGO
             Fezzik, tear his arms off.

FEZZIK

steps toward him.

                         YELLIN
             Oh, you mean this gate key.

And he whips it out, hands it to Fezzik.

                                            CUT TO:

Here is the movie version of the scene:

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 Princess Bride.

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: “Lincoln”

July 2nd, 2014 by

A memorable scene from the 2012 movie Lincoln, written by Tony Kushner.

Plot Summary: As the Civil War continues to rage, America’s president struggles with continuing carnage on the battlefield and as he fights with many inside his own cabinet on the decision to emancipate the slaves.

INT. ODD FELLOWS’ HALL, WASHINGTON - NIGHT

Onstage, Gounod’s Faust, Act Three, scene eight, the garden 
outside Marguerite’s cottage, a gorgeously romantic night. 
MARGUERITE and FAUST are alone singing. The Lincolns, in 
their box, watch quietly. Elizabeth Keckley sits next to Mary.

Mary turns to Lincoln. They speak in whispers. Mrs. Keckley 
tries not to listen but she can’t help hearing what they say.

MARY
You think I’m ignorant of what
you’re up to because you haven’t 
discussed this scheme with me as 
you ought to have done. When have I 
ever been so easily bamboozled?
(beat)
I believe you when you insist that 
amending the constitution and 
abolishing slavery will end this 
war. And since you are sending my 
son into the war, woe unto you if 
you fail to pass the amendment.

LINCOLN
Seward doesn’t want me leaving big
muddy footprints all over town.

MARY
No one ever lived who knows better
than you the proper placement of 
footfalls on treacherous paths. 
Seward can’t do it. You must. 
Because if you fail to secure the 
necessary votes, woe unto you, sir. 
You will answer to me.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

This is a dialogue-driven scene and at the hands of such a talent as Kushner, probably a good idea to stick to the text which is what the actors Sally Field and Daniel Day-Lewis do.

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: “Get Shorty”

June 25th, 2014 by

A scene from the 1995 movie Get Shorty, screenplay by Scott Frank, book by Elmore Leonard.

Plot Summary: A mobster travels to Hollywood to collect a debt and discovers that the movie business is much the same as his current job.

DOWNSTAIRS 

as Chili and Karen enter the restaurant. Chili checks out the bar, 
sees they aren't there, then looks up at the railing . . . 
keeps his eyes up there as he says . . . 

CHILI: Wait here. 

Chili moves to the staircase, now sees the Bear in his Hawaiian 
shirt standing a few steps from the top. 

Chili gets within three steps of the guy and stops, but doesn't 
look up, keeps his eyes fixed on the man's gut. 

BO CATLETT: I'd like you to meet my associate, the Bear. Movie 
stuntman and champion weightlifter, as you might've noticed. 
Picks up and throws out things I don't want. 

Chili doesn't move, keeps his eyes on the man's crotch. 

BEAR: We think you ought to turn around and go back to Miami. 

Chili slowly moves his gaze up through hibiscus until he's looking 
at the man's bearded face . . . 

CHILI: So you're a stuntman. Are you any good? 

The Bear grins and turns his head to the side, as if too modest to 
answer and will let Bo Catlett speak for him. 

This makes the next move easier . . . the guy not even looking as 
Chili grabs a handful of his crotch, steps aside and yanks him off 
the fucking stairs. 

The Bear yells out of pain and fear as the beefy guy rolls all the 
way down the stairs to land on the main floor, a few feet away from 
where Karen now stands. 

Chili keeps watching until he sees the guy move, then looks up at 
Bo Catlett who's now coming down . . . 

CHILI: Not bad for a guy his size. 

Chili continues up the stairs to where Bo Catlett stands beside 
the table. Chili unbuttons his coat . . . 

CHILI: I'll make you a deal. If you can get out of here before I 
take my coat off, I won't clean the floor with you, get your little 
costume all messed up. 

Karen watches now as Bo Catlett puts a hand in his coat packet, 
steps right up to Chili . . . 

BO CATLETT: You don't know me. You only think you do. 

Bo walks past Chili, goes down the stairs. Chili watches as Bo 
Catlett helps the Bear get to his feet. They leave the restaurant, 
the Bear looking over his shoulder at Chili. 

Even Karen is looking at him differently now as they slide into the 
booth with a now shocked, rapidly sobering Harry. 

CHILI: Rough business this movie business. I may have to go back to 
loan sharking for a rest. 

Harry doesn't say anything. Karen looks at him. 

KAREN: Harry, what're you still doing with those guys? 
HARRY: He happens to be loaning me five hundred grand, no strings, 
I write any kind of agreement I want. 

CHILI: Is he giving you a check or cash? 
HARRY: Cash. It happens to be waiting right at this moment in a 
locker at the airport. 
KAREN: A locker at the airport? Jesus Christ, Harry. Tell me you're 
not really that stupid. 
CHILI: The guy's setting you up. You pulled out of their Freaks deal 
so he's paying you back. 
HARRY: Oh, is that right? I'm being set up? Then how come Catlett 
said I should send you out to get it, since you haven't done a 
fucking thing for me since you got into this . . . except showing 
Bo Catlett my script? 

Chili looks at Karen, smiles, shakes his head . . . 

CHILI: Okay, Harry, I'm wrong. You're not the one he's setting up. 
HARRY: I mean, at least Bo's invested in three of my movies. 
KAREN: Harry, we spoke with Martin. 
HARRY: 'We?' 
KAREN: Chili and me. 

Harry looks at the two of them, differently now . . . 

HARRY: Really. 
CHILI: Yeah, he wants us to talk to Buddy, set up a meeting. 
HARRY: A meeting with who? You and Karen? 
KAREN: Harry -- 
HARRY: Man's in town two days, thinks he's David O. fucking Selznick.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Scott Frank is one helluva screenwriter with an incredible range of movie credits including another Elmore Leonard adaptation (Out Of Sight) as well as Little Man Tate, Malice, Minority Report, Marley & Me, and The Wolverine.

Notice how clean his scene description is, taut, yet visual, and with personality:

Chili slowly moves his gaze up through hibiscus until he's looking 
at the man's bearded face . . .

----

This makes the next move easier . . . the guy not even looking as 
Chili grabs a handful of his crotch, steps aside and yanks him off 
the fucking stairs.

----

Even Karen is looking at him differently now as they slide into the 
booth with a now shocked, rapidly sobering Harry. 

One of the biggest values in reading scripts is to expose yourself to pro writers, like Scott Frank, and how they approach things like scene description, scene construction, dialogue, and so forth.

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: “Frozen”

June 18th, 2014 by

A scene from the 2013 animated movie Frozen, screenplay by Jennifer Lee, inspired by the story “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen, story by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee & Shane Morris, additional story by Dean Wellins.

Plot Summary: Fearless optimist Anna teams up with Kristoff in an epic journey, encountering Everest-like conditions, and a hilarious snowman named Olaf in a race to find Anna’s sister Elsa, whose icy powers have trapped the kingdom in eternal winter.

Here Elsa’s secret is exposed.

EXT. COURTYARD — NIGHT

Elsa bursts out of the castle door. The CITIZENS CHEER!

CROWD
There she is. Your Majesty! Long
live the Queen! Queen Elsa.... 
Come drink with us.

Elsa ducks through the crowd, holding her bare hand.

BOWING TOWNSMAN 
Queen Elsa.

TOWNSWOMAN WITH BABY 
Your Majesty? Are you all right?

Elsa backs away from the baby. She knocks into the fountain, 
grabs its edge. The waters freeze at her touch.

GASPS of shock and fear sweep over the crowd. The Duke and 
thugs come out the door.

DUKE

There she is! Stop her!

ELSA (to the Duke)
Please, just stay away from me. 
Stay away!

Magic accidentally shoots from her hand and turns the staircase 
into ice. The thugs and the Duke fall.

DUKE 
Monster.... Monster!

The crowd panics.
 A snowstorm begins. Elsa flees. 
Anna runs out of 
the palace doors, carrying the glove.

ANNA
Elsa!

Hans follows closely behind her.

GATES TO THE KINGDOM: Elsa runs out of the gates and down to the 
water’s edge. The shoreline freezes under her feet.

Anna calls to her from the gates.

ANNA 
Elsa! Wait, please!

Elsa glances back at Anna, but turns away. She tentatively steps out 
onto the fjord. It freezes instantly. She breaks into a run, as the 
water freezes over with each step.

ANNA
Elsa, stop!

Anna rushes out onto the fjord ice, slips, falls.

HANS 
Anna!

Hans rushes to Anna’s side.

Elsa reaches the far shore. She doesn’t look back. She just scrambles into 
the mountains.

ANNA
No.

HANS
(shocked)
Look.... The fjord.

The ice spreads out until the entire fjord is frozen, 
locking the ships in place.

INT. CASTLE COURTYARD — NIGHT

Snow falls. Hans and Anna move through the panicking crowd.

CROWD WALLAH 
Snow? It’s...snow...in July.

HANS 
...Are you all right?

ANNA 
(in shock)
No.


Nearby, the Duke flutters about in fright.

DUKE

Look! It’s snowing! It’s snowing!
The Queen has cursed this land! She 
must be stopped!
(to his thugs)

You have to go after her.

Anna rushes up to the Duke.

ANNA 
Wait, no!

The Duke hides behind his thugs and points out at Anna.

DUKE

You! Is there sorcery in you, too?
Are you a monster, too?

ANNA

No. No. I’m completely ordinary.

HANS

That’s right she is...
(realizing how that sounds)
...in the best way.

ANNA

...And my sister’s not a monster.

DUKE

She nearly killed me.

HANS

You slipped on ice.

DUKE 
Her ice!

ANNA

It was an accident. She was scared.
She didn’t mean it. She didn’t mean 
any of this.... Tonight was my fault. 
I pushed her. So I’m the one that 
needs to go after her.

DUKE 
Yes. Fine. Do.

HANS 
What?

ANNA

(to the Royal Handler)
Bring me my horse, please.

HANS

Anna, no. It’s too dangerous.

ANNA

Elsa’s not dangerous. I’ll bring
her back, and I’ll make this right.


The Royal Handler brings Anna her horse and a cloak.

HANS

I’m coming with you.

ANNA

No, I need you here to take care of
Arendelle.


He sees the desperation in her eyes.

HANS 
...On my honor.

She throws on the cloak and hops right onto the horse, 
coronation dress and all.

ANNA 
(to the crowd)
I leave Prince Hans in charge!

HANS

(before letting her go)
Are you sure you can trust her? I don’t 
want you getting hurt.

ANNA

She’s my sister; she would never
hurt me.

She snaps the reins and rides out. Hans watches after her. 

The snow picks up and overtakes our view. 

Here is the movie version of the scene:

This represents a major plot point. Notice how quickly the plot twist occurs: The revelation, then Anna’s choice. Also note how visual the scene is. Both are key to good cinema.

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: “Cinema Paradiso”

June 11th, 2014 by

A wonderful scene from the 1988 movie Cinema Paradiso, screenplay by Giuseppe Tornatore and Vanna Paoli.

Plot summary: A filmmaker recalls his childhood, when he fell in love with the movies at his village’s theater and formed a deep friendship with the theater’s projectionist.

This scene: Salvatore, smitten by Elena, finds a unique opportunity to ‘confess’ his feelings to her.

	SALVATORE watches from a distance. He sees the PRIEST put on an alarmed 
	expression and then sit down beside ALFREDO. Everything's ready. He creeps over 
	to the confessional. ELENA is there, kneeling down waiting for the PRIEST to 
	arrive. In an instant, without anyone noticing, SALVATORE pops inside the 
	confessional. He shuts the little door below and draws the purple curtain. On 
	the other side of grille, only a few inches away, those eyes that keep him awake 
	all night. 
	
				ELENA  
		Father, I have sinned...
	
				SALVATORE  
			(In a low voice) 
		We'll talk about that later. 
	
				ELENA  
			(Surprised) 
		But...who...
	
				SALVATORE  
			(Interrupting her) 
		Sssssh, Be quiet, pretend 
		everything's normal. I'm Salvatore. 
	
	ELENA'S eyes pop in amazement.
	
				ELENA  
		What are you doing here?
	
	Meanwhile ALFREDO and the PRIEST continue their unusual and animated discussion. 
	The PRIEST is appalled, crosses himself. 
	
				PRIEST  
		But Alfredo, what you're saying is 
		horrifying! 
	
				ALFREDO  
		I know. But take the-miracle of the 
		loaves and fishes, for example! I 
		think about it a lot...How is it 
		possible for...
	
	In the confessional, the whispered conversation between SALVATORE and ELENA 
	continues.
	
				ELENA  
			(Annoyed) 
		There was a terrible rumpus at home. 
		My mother told my father. And how 
		could you have mistaken my voice?!
	
	SALVATORE is mortified, on tenterhooks, keeps an eye on ALFREDO and the PRIEST 
	through a crack in the curtain.
	
				SALVATORE  
		Forgive me, Elena. It was stupid of 
		me. But I had to talk to you. 
	
	She looks up at him and her eyes are even more beautiful in the candlelight. 
	This time SALVATORE finds the courage to speak to her calmly, with 
	determination. That grille probably helps him, allows him to see without being 
	seen.
	
				SALVATORE  
		You're so beautiful, Elena...That's 
		what I wanted to tell you. When I 
		meet you, I can't put two words 
		together because...you give me the 
		shivers. I don't know what you do in 
		these situations, what you're 
		supposed to say. It's the first time. 
		But I think I'm in love with you. 
	
	ELENA gazes through the grille at the two shining specks of his eyes. She is 
	bewildered by that flood of passion. At that moment, an OLD WOMAN kneels down on 
	the other side of the confessional and her face appears behind the grille.
	
				OLD WOMAN  
		Father, I have sinned...
			(SALVATORE turns lo her, 
			instinctively.)
	
				SALVATORE  
		I absolve you in the name of the 
		Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. 
		Go in peace, my daughter. 
			(And he slams the panel 
			shut in her face. ELENA is 
			barely able to control her 
			laughter.) 
		When you laugh, you're even more 
		beautiful. 
	
	She pulls herself together again and puts on a serious, but tender look.
	
				ELENA  
		Salvatore, it's awfully sweet of you. 
		And even though I don't know you, I 
		like you. But...I'm not in love with 
		you. 
	
	For SALVATORE, it's as if a knife had plunged straight into his heart. He sits 
	there gazing into her eyes, at the beauty mark on her lip, without moving. Then 
	through the crack sees ALFREDO and the PRIEST conversing nervously, God knows 
	what they're saying. And he turns back to her.
	
				SALVATORE  
		I don't care. I'll wait.
	
				ELENA  
		For what?
	
				SALVATORE  
		For you to fall in love with me too. 
		Listen carefully. Every night, when I 
		get off work, I'll come and wait 
		beneath your window. Every night. 
		When you change your mind, open your 
		window. That's all. I'll 
		understand...
	
	He smiles at her. She is upset by those exaggerated words, but also intrigued.
	
	The PRIEST has meanwhile solved the problem that ALFREDO has made up as an 
	excuse.
	
				PRIEST  
			(Exhausted) 
		You understand now? You see it 
		clearly?
	
				ALFREDO  
			(Hypocritically) 
		Oh yes, father. Now everything's 
		clear.
	
				PRIEST  
		And the next time don't go around 
		saying such heresy. You survived the 
		fire at the movie house. But no one 
		can save you from the fire of Hell!

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Such a great scene for at least two reasons:

* The cross cuts between Alfredo and the Priest, and Salvatore and Elena.

* The very conceit of Salvatore stealthing into the confessional to convey his thoughts to Elena.

If you haven’t seen Cinema Paradiso, please put it on your to-screen list. It won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film in 1990… for good reason because it is a beautiful 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: “The Fisher King”

June 4th, 2014 by

A notable scene from the 1991 movie The Fisher King, written by Richard LaGravenese.

Plot Summary: A former radio DJ, suicidally despondent because of a terrible mistake he made, finds redemption in helping a deranged homeless man who was an unwitting victim of that mistake.

Scene: Parry (Robin Williams), the “deranged homeless man”, is trying to get his life together and has just had a wonderful evening with a woman (Lydia), seemingly on his way to recovery. But then something from his tormented past rises up into his consciousness.

        EXT. LYDIA'S BUILDING - NIGHT

        PARRY is standing frozen... We don't know whether he's
        looking ahead of him or in his mind's eye... He appears
        anxious and frightened as he steps back, away from
        Lydia's building... He senses someone is watching him.
        Parry smiles.  But suddenly it is as if everything has
        gone into SLOW MOTION.  His eyes focus on her skirt as it
        swirls around as she turns... His expression grows dark:
        O.S. we hear a horses HOOVES moving in slowly as CAMERA
        moves to CLOSEUP.  He slowly turns his head and looks
        down the block to the corner to see:

        The Red Knight.  He sits upon his horse as if waiting for
        Parry.  The street lamps cast a glow around his imposing
        figure.  The night air lifts his cape up around his
        massive shoulders.

        Parry, vulnerable, in love, whispers plainly:

                                PARRY
                  Let me have this.

                                                   CUT TO:

        THE RED KNIGHT

        silent, unforgiving, unrelenting.

        Parry begins to move away, taking a step back and then
        another and another... until he is running down toward
        the opposite corner.

        The Red Knight shifts his horse into Parry's direction
        and begins to charge.  Parry runs through deserted city
        streets -- running for his life; the sounds of the Red
        Knight GALLOPINGS grows closer.  The Red Knight, looks
        like a surreal figure hunting his prey.

        As Parry runs, IMAGES/MEMORIES begin to flood his mind 
        uncontrollably;

        EXT. HOSPITAL - NIGHT

        An ambulance arriving at a hospital... his wounded wife
        being moved on a stretcher.

                                                   CUT BACK TO:

        EXT. LYDIA'S STREET - NIGHT

        Parry running away from the Knight.

                                                   CUT TO:

        INT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT

        Parry and his wife at the side bar.  He is making her
        laugh uncontrollably.  He sees Edwin in the doorway,
        making nothing of it.

                                                   CUT TO:

        EXT. STREET - NIGHT

        Parry still running.

                                PARRY
                  Sstttoppp!!!

        Passers-by on the street witness the familiar sight of a
        bum screaming at thin air then turn away.  We hear the
        GALLOPING getting louder.

        Parry runs, mumbling incoherently.  People on the street
        get out of his way or snicker behind his back.  The Red
        Knight gallops toward PARRY, as he runs; his face wet
        with tears -- yet contorting with angry, incomprehensible
        reprisals.  People on the street pay no attention.

                                                   CUT TO:

        EXT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT

        A bar with broken glass surrounded by police and
        spectators.

        EXT. CENTRAL PARK - DAY

        Parry and his wife waltzing.  CLOSEUP on their clasped
        hands as Parry maneuvers a ring on her finger.

        INT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT

        His wife's lifeless hand lifted onto the stretcher.

        EXT. CENTRAL PARK - DAY

        Surprised, Parry's wife stops dancing to look at the
        ring.  Parry smiles.  It is his proposal...

        EXT. BABBITT'S - NIGHT

        Ambulance driving away with Parry holding his wife's hand
        in the back...

        EXT. CENTRAL PARK - DAY

        Dancing, his wife embraces him as she accepts.

        INT. TV NEWS STATION - NIGHT

        Jack's face on a TV news broadcast with a reporter
        commenting.

                                                   CUT TO:

        EXT. EAST RIVER PROMENADE - NIGHT

        Parry has run all the way to the promenade along the
        river.

                                PARRY
                  Come on!... Where are you!!!  Where
                  are you!!
                         (softer, dropping to his
                          knees)
                  Where are you...

                                                   CUT TO:

        EXT. THE END OF THE PROMENADE - NIGHT

        The two juvenile delinquents, Leather and Windbreaker,
        come strutting down the promenade, in SLOW MOTION.  Parry
        looks toward them, as if surrendering.

        Through PARRY'S POV we see the two youths are being lead
        by the Red Knight on his horse.

        Parry, tear-stained face, rises to meet them.  The Youths
        reach Parry and surround him.  Leather flicks open a
        switchblade.

                                LEATHER
                  ... We're tired of looking at you
                  people...

        Parry stands before them, surrendering to his fate.

        Through his POV, the Red Knight is pointing a sword at
        him in front of Leather and his switchblade.  He slashes
        at Parry's chest as we...

                                                   CUT TO:

        WIDE ANGLE OF PROMENADE

        as Parry sinks to his knees... The youths close in around
        him.

                                                   CUT TO:

Here is the scene in the movie:

Beat for beat, the movie follows closely the script, however the imagery as executed by director Terry Gilliam elevates the words into a compelling set of visuals.

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: “12 Years a Slave”

May 28th, 2014 by

From the 2013 movie 12 Years a Slave, screenplay by John Ridley, based on a memoir by Solomon Northup.

Plot summary: In the antebellum United States, Solomon Northup, a free black man from upstate New York, is abducted and sold into slavery.

Setup: Some time later, slave owner Epps (Michael Fassbender) dispatches Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to a nearby plantation owned by Shaw. Shaw has married one of his slaves and elevated her status (at least on his plantation). Patsey (Lupita Nyong’o) is there for a visit, enjoying the finery, but apparently Epps is jealous that Shaw might attempt to bed her. After a brief refreshment, Solomon convinces Patsey to join him. As they return to Epps’ plantation, he is clearly drunk.

Here is the scene excerpt from the script:

EPPS
Pats...! Patsey!

SOLOMON
Do not look in his direction.

Epps does not care to be ignored. He lifts himself and 
moves toward the pair in a rage.

EPPS 
Patsey...!

Solomon moves between Epps and Patsey, cutting Epps off 
as Patsey continues on. Playing up his "ignorance" of 
the situation:

SOLOMON
Found her, Master, and brought her
back just as instructed.

EPPS
What'd you jus now tell her?
What'd you say to Pats?

SOLOMON
No words were spoken. None of
consequence.

EPPS
Lie! Damned liar! Saw you
talkin' with 'er. Tell me!

SOLOMON
I cannot speak of what did not
occur. 

Epps grabs Solomon.

EPPS
I'll cut your black throat.

Solomon pulls away from Epps, RIPPING HIS SHIRT IN THE 
PROCESS. Epps gives chase. Solomon begins to run around 
the large pig sty, easily keeping his distance. Epps, 
however is undeterred. He moves after Solomon as 
speedily as he can, which isn't very speedily at all. 
And quickly he tires. Epps is forced to bend over and 
suck air. Solomon maintains his distance, barely 
breathing hard. His breath returned to him, Epps starts 
up the chase again. Solomon runs on out of reach. 
Shortly, Epps again stops, gets his breath... And now in 
what should be quite comical, Epps again runs after 
Solomon. Again, Epps's vigor leaves him before he can 
even get close to the slave.

Here is the scene from the movie:

A few things:

* During the ‘chase,’ there is some additional dialogue: Solomon insisting, “I brought her back just as instructed” and Epps saying, “Stay away from Patsey, boy.”

* The scene continues on with Epps confessing his depraved drunken state (“liquor filled me… I’m all done in”) and screenwriter Ridley notes this in scene description: “ALL OF THE PRECEDING SHOULD BE MORE FUNNY THAN SHOCKING. A CHANGE OF PACE FROM THE OTHERWISE NECESSARY BLEAKNESS OF SLAVE LIFE.”

But the main thing I’d like to note is the Narrative Voice at work here. There is a kind of formality to the language used in the scene description. For example:

* “Epps does not care to be ignored”

* “Playing up his “ignorance” of the situation”

* “Epps gives chase”

* “And quickly he tires”

* “Solomon maintains his distance”

I would take this to be the writer’s attempt to reflect the sensibilities of the time, perhaps even echo the way Northup wrote in his memoir. In any event, this serves as a reminder that we need to be conscious of and take an active role in figuring out how the style of our scene description matches up with the genre and tone of the story we’re writing. No two Narrative Voices will be the same. They vary from story to story.

Finally there is the supposed screenwriting ‘rule’: Action Paragraphs — 3 Lines Max.

The script for 12 Years a Slave is filled with long blocks of scene description like the one featured here which is 13 lines long.

Is it wise to write a spec script with 13 line long paragraphs of scene description? Probably not. But 12 Years a Slave did win an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay.

So once again, ‘rule’ broken.

You can download the script for 12 Years a Slave 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.