Script To Screen: “American Pie”

August 27th, 2014 by

A scene from the 1999 movie American Pie, written by Adam Herz. Yes, the infamous apple pie scene.

Plot Summary: Four teenage boys enter a pact to lose their virginity by prom night.

Here is the scene in the script:

     INT. JIM'S HOUSE - KITCHEN - DAY

     Jim enters his house, slinging his backpack off his
     shoulder.

                         JIM
                   (yells)
               Mom?!  I'm home!

     No response.  Jim walks into the kitchen, noticing a
     fresh-baked pie on the counter.  Next to it is a note:
     "Jimmy - Apple, your favorite.  I'll be home late.
     Enjoy!  Love Mom."

     Jim sniffs the pie, taking in the aroma.  Then stops...as
     a quizzical look spreads across his face.

     After a moment of thought, he slides a finger into the
     pie.  Moves it around a bit, studying the consistency.

     Then Jim becomes more curious.  We can see the gears in
     his head start to turn.  He looks down at the pie like
     it's... well, not a pie.

     EXT. JIM'S HOUSE - DAY

     Jim's dad gets out of his car, carrying his briefcase.

     INT. JIM'S HOUSE - CONTINUING

     Jim's dad comes in the door and stops dead in his tracks.
     His face drops, appalled.

                         JIM'S DAD
               Jim?

                         JIM
               It's not what it looks like!

                                                            CUT TO:

     INT. JIM'S HOUSE - KITCHEN - DAY

     Jim and his Dad sit in silence, opposite each other at
     the table.  Jim stares into his lap, humiliated.  Jim's
     dad is crushed.  You've never seen such disappointment...
     but he's trying to keep his chin up for Jim's sake.

     In the middle of the table is the pie.  It's decimated.
     Mushed up, ruined...violated.

                         JIM'S DAD
                   (fighting back tears)
               I guess...we'll just tell your
               mother...that we ate it all.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

This is a payoff to a previous scene in which Jim and his pals are talking about sex in terms of the first base-second base-baseball euphemism:

                         JIM
               So let's say you get there...what's
               uh, third base feel like?

                         KEVIN
               Oh, man, that's kind of sad.

     Jim shrugs, embarrassed.

                         OZ
               Feels like warm apple pie, dude.

                         JIM
               Apple pie...
                   (then)
               McDonald's or homemade?

Presented with an opportunity to test said description with an actual apple pie, well… we see what Jim does. And does his father.

Trivia: When submitting his script to studios, screenwriter Adam Herz titled it, “Untitled Teenage Sex Comedy That Can Be Made For Under $10 Million That Most Readers Will Probably Hate But I Think You Will Love”. It was later changed to “East Great Falls High”, then “Great Falls”, and finally, “American Pie”.

The title may have changed, but this scene never did.

One of the best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

Script To Screen: “All About Eve”

August 20th, 2014 by

A scene from the 1950 movie All About Eve, written by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and featuring one of the most famous lines of dialogue in movie history.

Plot Summary: An ingenue (Eve) insinuates herself in to the company of an established but aging stage actress (Margo) and her circle of theater friends.

Here is the scene in the script:

He hands Eve's drink to Karen. Max has wandered off. Other
guests are arriving. Margo gulps her drink, hands Bill the
empty glass. He puts it on a passing tray. Margo takes a
fresh one at the same time. 

			LLOYD
	 The general atmosphere is very
	 Macbethish. What has or is about to
	 happen? 

			MARGO
		(to Bill)
	 What is he talking about? 

			BILL 
	 Macbeth. 

			KAREN 
		(to Margo)
	 We know you, we've seen you before
	 like this. Is it over - or just
	 beginning? 

Margo surveys them all. 

			MARGO
	 Fasten your seat belts. It's going
	 to be a bumpy night. 

She downs the drink, hands the empty glass to Bill, and
leaves them. She passes two women, gabbing by the piano. As
they see her:

			WOMAN #1
	 Margo, darling!

			WOMAN #2
	 Darling!

			MARGO
		(passing)
	 Darlings...

She arrives at the landing just as Addison comes up with Miss
Caswell. Margo takes a drink from a passing tray. 

			MARGO
		(to Addison)
	 I distinctly remember striking your
	 name from the guest list. What are
	 you doing here?

			ADDISON
	 Dear Margo. You were an
	 unforgettable Peter Pan - you must
	 play it again, soon. You remember
	 Miss Caswell?

			MARGO
	 I do not. How do you do?

			MISS CASWELL
	 We never met. That's why. 

			ADDISON
	 Miss Caswell is an actress. A
	 graduate of Copacabana School of
	 Dramatic Arts. 
		(his glance is attracted
		 by Eve coming downstairs)
	 Ah... Eve.

			EVE
		(deferentially)
	 Good evening, Mr. deWitt.

			MARGO
	 I had no idea you knew each other.

			ADDISON 
	 This must be, at long last, our
	 formal introduction. Until now we
	 have met only in passing...

			MISS CASWELL
	 That's how you met me. In passing. 

			MARGO
		(smiles)
	 Eve, this is an old friend of Mr.
	 deWitt's mother - Miss Caswell,
	 Miss Harrington...
		(the two girls say hello)
	 Addison, I've been wanting you to
	 meet Eve for the longest time-

			ADDISON
		(murmurs)
	 It could only have been your
	 natural timidity that kept you from
	 mentioning it...

			MARGO
	 You've heard of her great interest
	 in the Theater-

			ADDISON
	 We have that in common. 

			MARGO
	 Then you two must have a long talk-

			EVE
	 I'm afraid Mr. deWitt would find me
	 boring before too long. 

			MISS CASWELL
	 You won't bore him, honey. You
	 won't even get to talk. 

			ADDISON
		(icily)
	 Claudia dear, come closer.
		(she does, and he points)
	 This is Max Fabian. He is a
	 producer. Go do yourself some good. 

			MISS CASWELL
		(sighs)
	 Why do they always look like
	 unhappy rabbits? 

			ADDISON
	 Because that is what they are. Go
	 make him happy. 

Miss Caswell drapes her coat over the rail, heads for Max.
Addison puts Eve's arm in his. 

			ADDISON
		(to Margo)
	 You mustn't worry about your little
	 charge. She is in safe hands. 

			MARGO
	 Amen.

Eve smiles uncertainly at Margo as he leads her away. Margo
looks after them. She downs her drink...

Here is the movie version of the scene:

First thing to note, the line “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy night,” was named by the American Film Institute at the #9 most notable movie quote of all time. But it’s what happens after the line that ratchets up the plot, Eve connecting with Addison.

One thing interesting about scripts from this era is how close the actors stick to the dialogue as written. Few changes if any as is the case here. There’s a reason for that: During the first half-century during the evolution of movies, and especially during the 30s and 40s, many films were adaptations of stage play. Indeed, many screenwriters were playwrights. And in that world, the writer’s words were sacrosanct.

This attitude prevailed in Hollywood and it was only with the emergence of the director as auteur and the growth of method acting that we saw a screenplay coming to be perceived as a blueprint for production.

One of the best things you can do to learn the craft of screenwriting is to read the script while watching the movie. After all a screenplay is a blueprint to make a movie and it’s that magic of what happens between printed page and final print that can inform how you approach writing scenes. That is the purpose of Script to Screen, a weekly series on GITS where we analyze a memorable movie scene and the script pages that inspired it.

Script To Screen: “Big Fish”

August 13th, 2014 by

A scene from the 2003 movie Big Fish, screenplay by John August, novel by Daniel Wallace.

Plot Summary: A son tries to learn more about his dying father by reliving stories and myths he told about his life.

Here is the scene in the script:

               EXT. SORORITY HOUSE - DAY

               Sandra walks out to him. She's smiling, confused, joyful and 
               scared. All down Greek Street, STUDENTS are coming out to 
               see the display.

                                     SANDRA
                         Daffodils?

                                     EDWARD
                         They're your favorite flower.

                                     SANDRA
                         How did you get so many?

                                     EDWARD
                         I called everywhere in five states 
                         and explained this was the only way 
                         I could get my wife to marry me.

               Out of nowhere, a tear drops down Sandra's cheek. She wipes 
               it off.

                                     SANDRA
                         You don't even know me.

                                     EDWARD
                         I have the rest of my life to find 
                         out.

               From down the street...

                                     A MAN'S VOICE
                         Sandra!

                                     SANDRA
                         It's Don. Promise me you won't hurt 
                         him.

                                     EDWARD
                         If that's what you want, I swear to 
                         it.

               The adult DON PRICE arrives. He's 230 pounds of football-
               playing, Skynyrd-loving, fraternity-proud muscle. And he's 
               pissed.

               A gang of his BROTHERS walk behind him.

                                     DON PRICE
                         Bloom!

                                     EDWARD
                         Don.

                                     DON PRICE
                         What the hell are you doing? This is 
                         my girl. Mine!

                                     EDWARD
                         I didn't know she belonged to anybody.

               Don Price decks him, knocking him down. Edward gets right 
               back up, but makes no move to defend himself.

               Unfazed, Don slugs him again.

                                     SANDRA
                         Stop it!

                                     DON PRICE
                              (ignoring)
                         What the matter, Bloom? Too scared 
                         to fight back?

                                     EDWARD
                         I promised I wouldn't.

               A beat. Don shrugs, fine. Then proceeds to kick Edward's ass 
               nine ways to Sunday.

                                     EDWARD (V.O.)
                         While I took the beating of a 
                         lifetime, it was Don Price who was 
                         ultimately defeated.

               As the ass-whupping continues, we 

                                                             INTERCUT WITH:

               INT. FRATERNITY HOUSE BATHROOM - DAY [FLASHFORWARD]

               Sitting on the can, Don Price pinches a loaf while reading 
               the new Playboy.

                                     EDWARD (V.O.)
                         All the physical activity had worsened 
                         a congenital valve defect. Put simply, 
                         his heart wasn't strong enough.

               Don Price squeezes down hard, trying to shit the unshittable. 
               Suddenly, he grasps his chest and collapses face-first on 
               the tile.

                                                              MATCH CUT TO:

               EXT. WITCH'S HOUSE / GATE - NIGHT [FLASHBACK]

               The same image of Don's dead face on the tile is reflected 
               in The Eye.

                                                         RETURNING BACK TO:

               EXT. THE SORORITY HOUSE - DAY

               The thrashing continues. Edward somehow fights his way back 
               to his feet, ready to be knocked down again.

                                     SANDRA
                         Don!

               Don is about to slug Edward again when he turns.

               Sandra pulls off her engagement ring. There's an audible 
               AHH! from her sisters, and an OHH! from Don's brothers.

                                     SANDRA
                         I will never marry you.

               A beat. Don stands stunned, his mind reeling.

               Edward, whose eyes are swollen almost shut, keeps waiting 
               for the next punch. Where is it? What's going on?

                                     DON PRICE
                         What. You love this guy?

                                     SANDRA
                         He's almost a stranger and I prefer 
                         him to you. 

               She hands him the ring. Another beat, then Don storms off. 
               But not before decking Edward one last time.

               Sandra leans over Edward's broken body. His head lies on the 
               daffodils.

                                     SANDRA
                         How can I convince you to stop?

                                     EDWARD
                         Go out with me.

               He smiles, his teeth bloody.

                                     SANDRA
                         Okay.

               As the crowd of students APPLAUDS and CHEERS, we CRANE UP 
               above the flowered battlefield.

                                     EDWARD (V.O.)
                         As it turned out, Sandra was able to 
                         keep her same date at the chapel. 
                         Only the groom had changed.

Here is the movie version:

There are some interesting cuts in the movie:

* No tear drop. Probably because it seems out of place for Sandra to express that level of emotion for a guy she barely knows, precisely what she conveys in the next line.

* The flashback to the witch’s eyes is cut. Perhaps because it interrupted the flow of the scene between Edward, Sandra, and Don.

* This exchange is gone:

Sandra: How can I convince you to stop?
Edward: Go out with me.
Sandra: Okay.

I suspect two things contributed to this cut. First, the smiles the actors summon up convey the point visually. Second, the following voice-over narration by adult Edward intimates that the couple did go out because they ended up getting married. So the sides were deemed extraneous.

How about that scene description from John August?

* The adult DON PRICE arrives. He’s 230 pounds of football-playing, Skynyrd-loving, fraternity-proud muscle. And he’s pissed.

* Don Price squeezes down hard, trying to shit the unshittable.

A reminder that we can use scene description not only to convey action, but also entertain the reader.

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: “Aliens”

August 6th, 2014 by

The final struggle between Ripley and the Alien from the 1986 movie Aliens, screenplay by James Cameron, story by James Cameron and David Giler & Walter Hill, characters by Dan O’Bannon and Ronald Shusett.

Plot Summary: The only survivor of the Nostromo, Ripley is discovered in deep sleep half a century later by a salvage ship. When she is taken back to Earth, she learns that a human colony was founded on the same planet where the aliens were first found. After contact with the colony is lost, she finds herself sent back to the planet along with a team of warriors bent on destroying the alien menace forever, and saving any survivors — if any remain.

Here is the scene from the script:

        INT. CARGO LOCK                                         196

        The Queen spins at the sound of door motors behind her.
        The parting doors REVEAL an inhuman silhouette standing
        there.

        Ripley steps out, WEARING TWO TONS OF HARDENED STEEL.
        THE POWER LOADER.  Like medieval armor with the power of
        a bulldozer.  She takes a step...the massive foot
        CRASH-CLANGS to the deck.  She takes another, advancing.

        Ripley's expression is one you hope you'll never see...
        Hell hath no fury like that of a mother protecting her
        child and that primal, murderous rage surges through her
        now, banishing all fear.

                                  RIPLEY
                   Get away from her, you bitch!

        The Queen SCREECHES pure lethality and leaps.

        WALLOP!  A roundhouse from one great hydraulic arm catches
        it on its hideous skull and slams it into a wall.  It
        rebounds into a massive backhand.  CRASH!  It goes
        backward into heavy loading equipment.

                                  RIPLEY
                          (screaming)
                   Come on!

        The Queen emerges as a blur of rage, lashing with
        unbelievable fury.  The battle is joined.

        Claws swipe, tail lashes.  Ripley parries with radical
        swipes of the steel forks.  They circle in a whirling
        blur, demolishing everything in their path.  The cavernous
        chamber echoes with nightmarish sounds...WHINE, CRASH,
        CLANG, SCREECH.

        They lock in a death embrace. Ripley closes the forks,
        crushing two of the creature's limbs.  It lashes and
        writhes with incredible fury, coming within inches of her
        exposed body.  She lifts it off the ground.  The hind
        legs rip at her, slamming against the safety cage, denting
        it in.  The striking teeth extend almost a meter from
        inside its fanged maw, shooting between the crash-bars.
        She ducks and the teeth slam into the seat cushion
        behind her dead in a spray of drool.  Yellow acid foams
        down the hydraulic arms toward her.  The creature rips
        at high-pressure hoses.  Purple hydraulic fluid sprays
        ...machine blood mixing with alien blood.  They topple,
        off balance.  The Queen pins her.  Ripley hits a switch.
        The power loader's CUTTING TORCH flares on, directly in
        the thing's face.  They roll together, over the lip of
        a RECTANGULAR PIT, A VERTICAL LOADING AIRLOCK.

        INT. LOADING LOCK                                       197

        They crash together four meters below, twisted in the
        loader's wreckage.  The Alien shrieks, pinned.

        Ripley pulls her arm out of the controls of the loader
        and claws toward a panel of airlock actuating buttons.
        She slaps the red "INNER DOOR OVERRIDE" and latches the
        "HOLD" locking-key down.  A KLAXON begins to sound.  She
        hits "OUTER DOOR OPEN" and there is a hurricane shriek of
        air as the doors on which they are lying separate,
        REVEALING the infinite pit of stars, below.

        All this time the Alien has been lashing at her in a
        frenzy and she has been parrying desperately in the
        confined space.  The airlock becomes a wind tunnel,
        blasting and buffetting her as she struggles to unstrap
        from the loader.  The air of the vast ship howls past her
        into space as she claws her way up a service ladder.

        INT. CARGO BAY                                          198

        Newt screams as the hurricane airstream sucks her across
        the floor toward the airlock.   Bishop, torn virtually in
        two, his pastalike internal organs whipped by the wind,
        grips a stanchion and reaches desperately for Newt as she
        slides past him.  He catches her arm and hangs on as she
        dangles, doll-like, in the airblast.

        INT. LOADING LOCK                                       199

        The Alien seizes Ripley's ankle.  She locks her arms
        around a ladder rung, feels them almost torn out of
        their shoulder sockets.

        The door opens farther, all of space yawning below.  The
        loader tumbles clear, falling away.  It drags the Alien,
        still clutching one of Ripley's lucky hi-tops, into the
        depths of space.  Its SHRIEK fades, it gone.

        With all her strength Ripley fights the blasting air,
        crawling over the lip of the inner doorway.  She releases
        the OVERRIDE from a second panel.  The inner doors close.
        The turbulent air eddies and settles.

        She lies on her back, drained of all strength.  Gasping
        for breath.  Weakly she turns her head, seeing Bishop
        still holding Newt by the arm.  Encrusted with his own
        vanilla milkshake blood.  Bishop gives her a small, grim
        smile.

                                  BISHOP
                   Not bad for a human.

        He winks.

Here is the scene from the movie (not a great version, but good enough to compare):

As much as we may think of Cameron as a director, I have always been impressed by his writing. With Aliens, he pulled off a nifty trick, taking the original film, which is arguably a horror movie, and turn it into an action film. He grounded the sequel with a strong emotional center: Ripley getting in touch with the maternal aspect of her psyche. Of course, in this final battle, he pitted one ‘mother’ versus another. But the takeaway from this post: Check out how visual the writing is. Strong verbs. Vivid descriptors. The script’s words convey a dramatic set of action images, comprising a memorable finale to the story. A great reminder: Movies are a visual medium. Our writing needs to reflect that on the page.

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 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.