Script To Screen: “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”

March 4th, 2015 by

The 1998 movie Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a great indie feature. Written and directed by Guy Ritchie, the movie veers wonderfully between humor and drama.

Here is a key early scene in the script:

BOXING GYM - NIGHT

Stakes have increased dramatically. There is a pause as Frazer looks at 
his cards.

EDDY
Twenty thousand open.

PHIL
OK. My Doctor would beat me to a heart attack if he knew what was going 
on here. I fold.

HATCHET
Got some cards there, boy? Thirty thousand. Back to you already Eddy?

Hatchet looks impatiently at the door.

EDDY
Fifty grand.

Hatchet scours Ed's forehead. It is still dry.

HATCHET
Eighty grand.

BOXING GYM CHANGING ROOM - NIGHT

Barry, who is trying as hard as he can to see Ed's cards, frustratedly 
zooms in and out; eventually Ed raises them just
enough; Barry jibs, hey bingo he sees Ed's cards!

Ed's got nothing but a pair of sixes. Barry excitedly starts tapping 
away.

INT. BOXING GYM - MGHT

EDDY
One hundred grand.

FRAZER
Hold on fellas, I know . . .

HATCHER (interrupts j
I know you're not in, which means nobody cares what you know. Two 
hundred and fifty.

Hatchet and EDDY minutely study each other's hairlines, waiting for a 
nervous droplet to appear. Sweat breaks; a drop on Ed's forehead, fills 
frame. Slowly we follow a droplet's journey coursing down Eddy's brow 
Eventually this is met by a large unblinking eye, at this point the 
pause is broken.

EDDY
That is quite a raise, one hundred and fifty on my hundred.

HATCHET
Yes . . . and is there something else you want to say? EDDY

As you know, this puts us in an awkward position. I don't have enough 
to continue.

Pause.

CROUPIER
We will have to see both your cards if no one loans EDDY the money to 
continue. It's a loan or we see both your cards.

Silence follows. A lot of nose scratching and examining of imaginary 
dirty ftngernails spreads contagiously throughout the remaining 
company.

It doesn't look . . .

HATCHET
(interrupts)
I will.

EDDY
You will what?

HATCHET
I will loan you the money.

Silence. The sweat bead reaches the bottom of Ed's chin, trembles for a 
second, then unattaches itself. Very slowly it falls. We follow its 
long silent journey. Eventually it is greeted by the back of Ed's 
cards. It explodes dramatically in sound and vision, symbolizing this 
worrying news.

EDDY
I think I would rather just turn them over.

HATCHET
I am not interested in what you would rather; I want to keep going. I 
am also offering you the money, so we don't have to turn them over 
because you can borrow.

EDDY
I need two hundred and fifty grand.

HATCHET
No, you need five hundred grand to see me.

Ed's face is now awash, busily blistering with sweat.

EDDY
That's if I want to see you.

HATCHET
Well, you're going to have a problem carrying on, aintcha.

The pause is painful.

CRUOPIER
You can still fold.

EDDY doesn't like the sound of this. There is sympathy in her voice. 
Harry looks sharply through narrowed eyes at the croupier; the croupier 
pleads with Eddy.

EDDY
I'll see ya.

HATCHET
For half a million?

EDDY
Unless you are going to accept twenty quid.

HATCHET
And still got a sense of humour. That's not monkey nuts son; you can 
still fold.
(Pause)
OK, before I loan you this, I expect, if you lose of course, my money 
back within a week, Crystal? That's Sunday, OK?

These last few words echo in the distance of Ed's mind (and ours). He 
is committed, but has now left the world of the conscious. Hatchet 
turns over the first card; it's a seven. EDDY
ushers him on; another seven, it looks as though he will have three; 
then the third: it's a four. There is an anti-climatic silence. After a 
loud pause . . .

CROUPIER
Is that it?

FRAZER
He was bluffing!

Hatchet looks content and rather nonchalant.

HATCHET
Let's see your fucking cards.

Nobody is impressed by Hatchet's cards; all eyes fall on EDDY 
expectantly We crash in to Ed's pupils with a loud swoosh. They 
contract to the size of pinheads. His world has changed for ever.

Here is the scene from the movie:

How does the movie differ from the script? There are subtle changes. What do you think?

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: “Fight Club”

February 25th, 2015 by

The ending to the 1999 movie Fight Club, screenplay by Jim Uhls, novel by Chuck Palahniuk.

IMDb plot summary: An insomniac office worker looking for a way to change his life crosses paths with a devil-may-care soap maker and they form an underground fight club that evolves into something much, much more…

SPOILER ALERT: Jack (Edward Norton) has realized that Tyler (Brad Pitt) is a projection of his own psyche which leads him to the choice he makes in this scene.

Here is the scene from an early version of the script:

INT. LARGE SOCIAL ROOM

With floor-to-ceiling windows showing a view of the city.  There are a
HUNDRED DUFFEL BAGS lining the floor, along the walls.

Tyler leaps onto Jack seizes the gun.  Jack holds onto Tyler.  Tyler
shoves the gun barrel into Jack's mouth.

TYLER
Okay -- let's kill you -- let's kill both of us.  Be a martyr for the
cause.

Tyler pushes Jack against a glass wall.  Jack, exhausted, is losing his
spirit.

JACK (V.O.)
I think this is about where we came in.

TYLER
Two minutes.

Jack collapses to the floor.  Tyler moves down with him, keeping the
gun in Jack's mouth.  He sits on Jack.

JACK
Either way -- the building blows us up or you pull the trigger -- it'll
finally be over.

TYLER
This building isn't going to blow up.  It's the observation room. 
Pay-per-view.  So, what are you going to do?  You don't even have the
guts to make a decision.

Jack looks into his eyes for a moment, then reaches up and PULLS THE
TRIGGER.  *GO TO SLOW MOTION* AS -- KABLAM! his cheeks INFLATE with gas
from the gun.  His eyes bulge, BLOOD flies out backwards from his head.
SMOKE wafts out of his mouth.

RESUME NORMAL SPEED as Tyler gapes at Jack, then reaches behind his
head and feels -- there's a HOLE BLOWN OUT THE BACK.  Tyler's eyes
glaze over and he falls backwards, plopping on the floor, DEAD, with a
grin on his face.

A throng of Space Monkeys -- two of whom drag Marla -- RUSHES into the
room.  They see Jack, ALONE, holding a gun, bleeding profusely from the
side of his face, where he's SHOT A HOLE through HIS CHEEK.  He stares
at the empty floor in front of him with his weird, little smile.

TALL SPACE MONKEY
ARE YOU ALL RIGHT, SIR?!!

The two Space Monkeys who hold Marla press forward through the crowd. 
One of them puts a GUN to her head.  He COCKS it.

TALL SPACE MONKEY
ARE YOU ALL RIGHT, SIR?!!

Jack takes in the sight of Marla and the gun at her head.  He cracks a
Tyler-esque grin.

JACK
Everything's fine.  Give me the girl.

The Monkeys release Marla.  She moves next to Jack, now becoming more
shocked by his bloody state.  Jack grabs her arm.  She digs through her
purse and pulls out a wad of tissue paper.  She puts them into his
mouth to plug the hole.

MARLA
What the fuck is going on?!

Jack cracks his weird, little smile; his eyes are wide and
half-insane-looking.  He winks at Marla and squeezes her hand.

JACK
Tyler's dead.

The Space Monkeys all grab their duffel bags and file out of the room,
saluting Jack as they go.

Now, Jack and Marla are completely alone.  He struggles to get to his
feet.  She helps him.  They look out the window.

MASSIVE EXPLOSION -- a building a quarter of a mile away.  It's
destruction is completely visible from here.  The glass walls RATTLE
LOUDLY from the shock wave.  They both stare out the window.

JACK
Listen, you met me at a really weird time in my life ...

Marla looks at Jack, then looks back out the window.  He reaches for
her hand.  She takes his hand.

They are SILHOUETTED against BRIGHT FLASHES as ANOTHER BUILDING
EXPLODES and COLLAPSES.  ANOTHER BUILDING EXPLODES.  And ANOTHER
BUILDING.  And ANOTHER BUILDING.

The FILM SLOWS DOWN, then ADVANCES ONE FRAME at a TIME -- SHOWING the
SPROCKET HOLES on the SIDES.  It's CAUGHT in the mechanism of the
projector's GATE.  EACH FRAME is the EXPLODING BUILDINGS -- then, *ONE
FRAME is a PENIS*.  Then, EXPLODING BUILDINGS again.  SPEED UP the
frames, LOSE the sprocket holes, RESUME NORMAL SPEED.

FADE OUT

And here is the scene from a later version of the script:

    Jack holds his head, walks around, at his wit's end.

                             JACK
                 Why... why... why... ?

                             TYLER
                 Why what?

                             JACK
                 Why can't I get rid of you?  Why
                 can't I just wish you away?

                             TYLER
                 You need me.

                             JACK
                 No, no, I don't.
                       (pause)
                 I thank you, I really do.  Thank you,
                 but I don't need you anymore.

                             TYLER
                 Look, I can be selfish, I know that.
                       (pause)
                 I'm not blind to my own failings...

                             JACK
                 Noooo, please...

     Jack backs up against a window, numb and weary.

                             TYLER
                 From now on, we'll share Marla.
                 We've been spending too much time
                 apart...

                             JACK
                 ... no, no, no...

                             TYLER
                 No more running off without you.
                 From here on out, we do it together.

                             JACK
                 Why are you doing this?!

                             TYLER
                 I'm doing this for us.

                             JACK
                 Please understand... I've gotten all
                 I can from this, Tyler.

                             TYLER
                       (sullen)
                 If I leave, you will be right back
                 where I found you...

                             JACK
                 I swear on my life, I won't...

                             TYLER
                 You will.  You know you will.

     Jack stares at Tyler, tears welling up, hangs his head.  He
     looks at the gun in his hand...

                             TYLER
                 Can you live with that?

     Jack stares at the gun a long time... then...

     Jack brings the gun up, PUTS THE GUN IN HIS MOUTH.

     Tyler cocks his head.

                             TYLER
                 What are you doing?

                             JACK
                 What have you left for me?

                             TYLER
                 Why do you want to do that? Why do
                 you want to put that gun in your
                 mouth?

                             JACK
                 Not my mouth.  Our mouth.

     Tyler is calm.

                             TYLER
                 This is interesting.

     Tyler smiles in appreciation, slowly walks forward, stands
     very close to Jack.

                             TYLER
                 Why are you going with this, Ikea-
                 boy?

                             JACK
                 It's the only way to get rid of you...

     Jack COCKS the hammer on the gun.

                             TYLER
                 I can see you feel very strongly.  I
                 feel strongly too.
                       (pause)
                 Hey, you and me.
                       (pause)
                 Friends again?

     Their eyes are locked, unblinking.  Long silence.

                             JACK
                 Do something for me.

                             TYLER
                 What?

                             JACK
                 Appreciate something.

                             TYLER
                 What?

                             JACK
                 Look at me...

                             TYLER
                 What?

                             JACK
                 My eyes are open.

     EXTREME SLOW MOTION:

     Jack's finger squeezes the trigger...

     KABLAM! -- Jack's cheeks INFLATE with gas.  His eyes bulge.
     BLOOD flies out from his head.  The WINDOW behind him
     SHATTERS.  SMOKE wafts out of his mouth and tear ducts.

     RESUME NORMAL SPEED as the GLASS FALLS behind Jack...

     Tyler stands, in gunsmoke, eyes glazed, sniffs the air...

                             TYLER
                 What's that smell... ?

     Jack slumps to the floor... Tyler falls...

     Tyler hits the ground.  The back of TYLER'S HEAD is BLOWN
     OPEN, revealing blood, skull and brain.

     Suddenly, a GROUP of SPACE MONKEYS burst into the room,
     moving forward to Jack.  TYLER'S BODY IS GONE.

                             TALL SPACE MONKEY
                 Are you all right, sir... ?!

     Jack quakes, holding the side of his head; a ragged hole
     blown in his CHEEK.  He's bleeding hard, but he's alive.

                             JACK
                 I'm okay...

     Jack looks to the Space Monkeys, trying to get his eyes to
     see.  TWO SPACE MONKEYS enter with Marla.  One holds a gun
     to Marla as she struggles.

                             SHORT SPACE MONKEY
                 Are you sure?  You look terrible,
                 sir!  What's happened?

                             JACK
                 Everything's fine.

                             ANOTHER SPACE MONKEY
                 Sir, you look really awful!  Do you
                 need medical assistance?

     Jack sees Marla, tries to get to his feet, falls...

                             JACK
                 Bring the girl to me.  The rest of
                 you get out.  Now!

     The Monkeys bring Marla, releasing her, saluting.

                             MARLA
                 What happened... ?

                             JACK
                 Don't ask.

     Marla crouches, takes out wadded TISSUES and tries to apply.
     them to Jack's wound.  Space Monkeys are leaving, hesitantly.

                             JACK
                 Get to the rendezvous point.  Move it!

     Jack and Marla are left alone.

                             MARLA
                 My God, you're shot...

                             JACK
                 Yes.

     Jack tries to got up.  Marla helps him.

                             MARLA
                 Who did this to you?

                             JACK
                 I did, I think.  But, I'm okay... I'm
                 fine...

     MASSIVE EXPLOSION... the glass walls rattle...

     Jack and Marla look -- OUT THE WINDOWS: a BUILDING EXPLODES;
     collapsing upon itself.  Then, ANOTHER BUILDING IMPLODES
     into a massive cloud of dust.  Jack and Marla are
     silhouetted against the SKYLINE.  Jack looks to Marla,
     reaches to take her hand.

                             JACK
                 I'm sorry... you met me at a very
                 strange time in my life.

     Marla looks at him.  ANOTHER BUILDING IMPLODES and COLLAPSES
     inward... and ANOTHER BUILDING... and ANOTHER...

     The FILM SLOWS, then ADVANCES ONE FRAME at a TIME -- SHOWING
     SPROCKET HOLES on the SIDES.  EACH FRAME is an IMPLODING
     BUILDING -- then, ONE FRAME IS A PENIS.  Then, the IMPLODING
     BUILDING again.  SPEED UP the frames, LOSE the sprocket
     holes, RESUME NORMAL SPEED...

                                                     FADE TO BLACK:

Here is the scene – in 2 parts and without Space Monkeys – from the movie.

Notice the significant increase in dialogue from the early draft to the later one. Then in the movie, a few alterations, but mostly trimmed dialogue. And one interesting twist: The moment Jack realizes that if Tyler has the gun in his hand… that actually means that Jack is holding the gun… which in the movie is how the gun ‘moves’ from Tyler to Jack.

What other changes do you notice?

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: “Jackie Brown”

February 18th, 2015 by

A scene from the 1997 movie Jackie Brown, written by Quentin Tarantino, based on an Elmore Leonard novel.

IMDb plot summary: The middle age stewardess Jackie Brown smuggles money from Mexico to Los Angeles for the arms dealer Ordell Robbie. When she gets caught by the agents Ray Nicolette and Mark Dargus with ten thousand dollars and cocaine in her purse, they propose a deal to her to help them to arrest Ordell in exchange of her freedom. Meanwhile Ordell asks the fifty-six year-old Max Cherry, who runs a bail bond business, to release Jackie Brown with the intention of eliminating her. Jackie suspects of Ordell’s intention and plots a complicate confidence game with Max to steal half a million dollar from Ordell.

Here Jackie gets the jump on Ordell.

CU GUN IN CROTCH					

JACKIE: What do you think it is?
ORDELL: I think it's a gun pressing against my dick.
JACKIE: You thought right.. Now take your hands from around my throat,
nigga.

Ordell flashes his hustler's smile and lets go.

END OF SPLIT SCREEN

Jackie turns Ordell around, gun firmly in his back, and pushes him
against the wall.

ORDELL: What the hell you doin'?
JACKIE: Shut your ass up and grab the wall!

Jackie has Ordell against the wall and is frisking him the way a cop
would.  She finds the .22 pistol in his pocket

ORDELL: Now, baby, that's got nothin' to do with you.  I just carry that.
You been listenin' to them cops too much.
JACKIE: The cops didn't try and strangle my ass.
ORDELL: Damn, Jackie, I was just playin' with you.
JACKIE: Well, I ain't playin with you. I'm gonna unload both these
motherfuckers, you don't do what I tell you. Understand what I'm saying?
ORDELL: Baby, I ain't come here - -

She shoves both guns in Ordell's back.

JACKIE: I said, you understand what I'm saying
ORDELL: I understand woman, damn!
JACKIE: Go sit over in that chair.

Ordell moves over to a chair across from the couch. Ordell still tries
bullshit..

ORDELL: I'm tellin' you, those cops been fuckin' wit your mind. They turn
black against black, that's how they do.
JACKIE: Shut your raggedy ass up and sit down.

Ordell sits.

JACKIE: (CONT'D) Put both hands behind our head.

Ordell does..

ORDELL: This shits gettin silly now..

Jackie turns the halogen lamp to light.

JACKIE: I gotta tell you to shut up one more time, I'm gonna shut you up.

Jackie sits down on the couch, holding a gun in each hand, both pointed
dead at Ordell.

A coffee table lays between them.

Ordell, hands behind his head, continues to mumble..

ORDELL: I just came here to talk.
JACKIE: Way I see it, me and you only got one thing to talk about.  What
you willing to do for me?

Ordell looks at her a moment and says;

ORDELL: Well, I can get you a good lawyer--

Jackie shakes her head "no!"

JACKIE: Let's get realistic, baby.  Sooner or later they're gonna get
around to offering me a plea deal, and you know that.  That's why you
came here to kill me.

ORDELL: --Baby, I didn't--

JACKIE: --It's okay.  I forgive you. Now, let's say if I tell on you, I
walk. And if I don't, I go to jail.

Ordell, very interested

ORDELL: Yeah?
JACKIE: One hundred thousand put in an escrow account in my name, if I'm
convicted up to a year, or put on probation.  If I have to do more than
a year, you pay another hundred thousand.

Ordell just takes in what the woman said.

ORDELL: I got a problem..
JACKIE: All your money's in Mexico.

Ordell has to smile at the woman.

ORDELL: Yeah.
JACKIE: I been thinkin about that, too, and I got me a idea.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

It’s great to see what Pam Grier and Samuel L. Jackson do with Tarantino’s dialogue. One thing: Grier adds a few choice MF-bombs to underscore how damn serious she is.

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: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

February 11th, 2015 by

A scene from the wonderful 1986 comedy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, written and directed by John Hughes.

IMDb plot summary: A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the principal thinks of that.

In this scene, Ferris revels in the fact he just conned his parents into letting him stay home from school, breaking the forth wall and letting us into his private thoughts.

 10  INT. BEDROOM                                                 10

     Ferris yanks open the drapes. The pall of the sickroom
     disappears in the brilliant glow of morning sunlight.

                              FERRIS
               Incredible! One of the worst performances
               of my career and they never doubted it
               for a second.
                          (looks out the window)
               What a beautiful day!

     He turns from the window.

                              FERRIS
               Parents always fall for the clammy hands.
               It's physical evidence of illness. It's
               a good, non-specific symptom. Parents are
               generally pretty hip to the fever scams.
               And to make them work you have to go a hundred
               and one, hundred and two. You get a nervous
               mother and you end up in a doctor's office
               and that's worse than school.

     He flips on his stereo and fills the room with the MTV
     broadcast. A NEW SONG begins.

                              FERRIS
               Fake a stomach cramp and when you're
               doubled over, moaning and wailing, just
               lick your palms. It's a little stupid
               and childish but then so if high school.
               Right?

     He equalizes the sound a little.

                              FERRIS
               This is my ninth sick day with semester.
               If I go for ten, I'm probably going to
               have to barf up a lung. So, I absolutely
               must make this one count.

     He exits into the hallway.

 11  INT. BATHROOM                                                11

     Ferris walks into the bathroom. It's littered with Jean's
     debris. He turns on the shower water.

                              FERRIS
               I don't care if you're fifty five
               or seven, everybody needs a day off
               now and then. It's a beautiful day.
               How can I be expected to handle
               high school?

     He bends down OUT OF FRAME as he loses his briefs. He pops
     up.

                              FERRIS
               I do actually have a test. That wasn't
               bullshit.

     He steps into the shower. Through the pebbled glass of the
     shower door we see Ferris' outline.

                              FERRIS
               That I care about it was.

 12  INT. BATHROOM. SHOWER STALL.                                 12

     Inside the shower. Ferris' hair is standing straight up.
     It's moulded into a fin with shampoo.

                              FERRIS
               It's on European socialism. I mean,
               really. What's the point? I'm not
               European. I don't plan to be European.
               So, who gives a shit if they're socialists?
               They could be fascist anarchists and it
               still wouldn't change the fact that I
               don't own a car.

     He turns the shower head around and uses it like a
     microphone.

                              FERRIS
                          (sings)
               WELL SHAKE IT UP, BABY,
               TWIST AND SHOUT...

 13  INT. HALLWAY. LATER                                          13

     Ferris comes out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around
     his waist. He's drying his hair with another of a different
     color.

                              FERRIS
               Not that I condone fascism. Or
               and "isms". "Isms", in my opinion
               are not good. A person should not
               believe in an "ism". He should
               believe in himself. John Lennon
               said it on his first solo album.
               "I don't believe in Beatles, I
               just believe in me." A good point
               there. After all, he was the Walrus.

     He opens a linen closet and tosses the towel in it.

                              FERRIS
               I could be the Walrus and I'd still
               have to bum rides off people.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Such terrific stuff, the dialogue followed almost to a tee from script to screen. One notable exception: The song Ferris sings in the shower is not The Beatles’ “Twist and Shout” but “Danke Schoen”. If you’re not familiar with Wayne Newton’s interpretation of the song, check it out:

Perhaps the change was made because Hughes already had in mind this scene:

Here are the lyrics of “Danke Schoen”. Any deeper meaning to Ferris singing this song – twice?

Danke schoen, darling, danke schoen
Thank you for all the joy and pain
Picture show, second balcony, was the place we’d meet
Second seat, go dutch treat, you were sweet

Danke schoen, darling, danke schoen
Save those lies, darling don’t explain
I recall Central Park in fall
How you tore your dress, what a mess, I confess
That’s not all

Danke schoen, darling, danke schoen
Thank you for walks down Lover’s Lane
I can see, hearts carved on a tree
Letters intertwined, for all time
Yours and mine, that was fine

Danke schoen, darling, danke schoen
Thank you for seeing me again
Though we go on our separate ways
Still the memory stays, for always
My heart says, “Danke schoen”

Danke schoen, oh darling, danke schoen
I said, thank you for seeing me again
Though we go on our separate ways
Still the memory stays, for always
My heart says, “Danke schoen”

Danke schoen
Auf wiedersehen
Danke schoen

Perhaps he’s acknowledging that the three friends will inevitably go their separate ways and he’s saying “thanks and goodbye”. Could add heft to the live-in-the-moment spirit of “Twist and Shout”. Or maybe it speaks to Ferris being an incurable romantic. In any event, the dialogue in the shower scene is great, dabbling with the intellectual, then veering back to a more pressing adolescent concern: Transportation.

What are your thoughts about this scene from the movie? Or generally about the movie itself? I invite you to comments to share your observations.

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: “A Few Good Men”

February 4th, 2015 by

A scene from the 1992 movie A Few Good Men, screenplay by Aaron Sorkin based on his play.

IMDb plot summary: Neo military lawyer Kaffee defends Marines accused of murder; they contend they were acting under orders.

This is directly after the famous “You can’t handle the truth” outburst.

		ROSS looks at KAFFEE, then JESSEP, then nods his head "yes"
		to RANDOLPH.

						RANDOLPH
				The Sergeant at Arms will take the jury to
				an ante-room where you'll wait until
				further instruction.

		The SERGEANT AT ARMS begins leading the JURORS out of the
		room.

						JESSEP
				What the hell's going on?

		No one will say anything until the jurors are out of the room.

						JESSEP
						(continuing; to
						captain)
				Captain, what the hell's going on?  I did
				my job.  I'd do it again.  Now I'm getting
				on a plane and going back to my base.

						RANDOLPH
				M.P.'s, guard the prisoner.

		The M.P.Is are tentative.  They've never heard a marine
		colonel referred to as "the prisoner" before.  They sure as
		hell have never been asked to guard one.

						ROSS
				Guard the prisoner.

						JESSEP
				What the hell-

						ROSS
				Colonel Jessep, you have the right to
				remain silent.  Any statement you do make
				can be used against you in a trial by
				court-martial or other judicial or
				administrative proceeding.  You have the
				right ...

		ROSS continues reading JESSEP his rights, over--

						JESSEP
				I'm being charged with a crime? I'm--
				that's what this is--
						(to Ross)
				Marine!
						(Ross keeps going)
				Marine!!
						(Ross is doing his
						job.)
				I'm being charged with a crime?  I'm-
				that's what's happening?  This--I'm-this
				is funny, you know that, this is--

		And JESSEP lunges at KAFFEE, and KAFFEE would be dead but for
		the three M.P.'s who've leapt in to restrain JESSEP.  SAM and
		JO have come to their feet and stand behind KAFFEE.

						JESSEP
						(continuing; to
						Kaffee)
				I'm gonna tear your eyes right outta your
				head and piss in your dead skull.  You
				fucked with the wrong marine.

		ROSS is done reading JESSEP his rights.

						ROSS
				Colonel Jessep, do you understand those
				rights as I have just read then to you?

						JESSEP
				I saved lives. That boy was--there was
				a weak link.  I saved lives, you hear me?

		The courtroom is silent from Jessep's outburst. Jessep shakes
		his head.

						JESSEP
						(continuing)
				You fuckin' people.
						(beat)
				You have no idea how to defend a nation.

						JESSEP
						(continuing; to
						KAFFEE)
				All you did was weaken a country today,
				Kaffee. That's all you did.  You put
				people in danger.  Sweet dreams, son.

						KAFFEE
				Don't call me son.
						(beat)
				I'm a lawyer, and an officer of the United
				States Navy.  And you're under arrest you
				sonofabitch.

		KAFFEE stays on JESSEP a moment longer, then remembers--

						KAFFEE
						(continuing)
				The witness is excused.

		The M.P.'s start leading JESSEP out, and KAFFEE notices
		DAWSON.  And DOWNEY.  And ROSS. who are watching a man in a
		marine colonels uniform be led away in handcuffs...KAFFEE
		takes a handkerchief from his pocket and wipes some sweat
		from his hands.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

There’s one cut of significance, this side of dialogue by Jessep: “I saved lives. That boy was–there was a weak link. I saved lives, you hear me?” Probably because it is repetitive of content that has come before. And it gets right to Jessep’s line: “You fuckin’ people,” which is a better direct response to Ross’s question.

There is a beat described in scene description that is missing from the movie:

The M.P.Is are tentative.  They've never heard a marine
colonel referred to as "the prisoner" before.  They sure as
hell have never been asked to guard one.

I note this to make a point. Sorkin is known for his dialogue. But if you read his scripts, he also uses lots of commentary in scene description to convey the inner thoughts and feelings of characters. Yes, another example of a professional writer breaking the so-called rule against writing unfilmables.

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: “Excalibur”

January 28th, 2015 by

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

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

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

               EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

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

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

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

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

                                     URYENS
                         Noble knights swear faith to a mere 
                         squire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

               EXT. BATTLEMENTS, CAMELYARDE CASTLE - NIGHT

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

               EXT. OUTSIDE THE CASTLE - NIGHT

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

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

               He's frantic and worried for once.

                                     MERLIN
                         I never saw this...

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

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

               Arthur looks up.

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

               Uryens is deeply moved.

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

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

Here is the scene from the movie:

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

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

Script To Screen: “The English Patient”

January 21st, 2015 by

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

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

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

               EXT.    AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE.    NIGHT.

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

               INT.    AMBASSADOR'S RESIDENCE.    NIGHT.

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

                                   ALMÁSY
                         Why did you hold his collar?

                                   KATHARINE
                         What?

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

                                   KATHARINE
                         Would you let me pass?

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

                                   KATHARINE
                         Don't do this.

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

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

                                   ALMÁSY
                         Dance with me.

                                   KATHARINE
                         No.

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

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

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

Here is the movie version of the scene:

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

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

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

January 14th, 2015 by

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

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

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

     DE SADE hands the phone back.

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

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

     Hangs up phone.

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

Here is the scene from the movie:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Script To Screen: “Dark Star”

January 7th, 2015 by

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

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

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

     EXTERIOR - BOMB BAY

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

                                   BOMB #20
                    To explode, of course.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    And you can only do it once, right?

                                   BOMB #20
                    That is correct.

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

                                   BOMB #20
                    Of course not.

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

                                   BOMB #20
                    Yes, well...

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

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

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

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

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

                                   BOILER
                    The key, goddamit, the key!

                                   PINBACK
                    Christ, twenty seconds, Christ!

                                   BOILER
                    Where is the key?

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

     They begin slapping each other hysterically.

     EXTERIOR - BOMB BAY

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

                                   BOMB #20
                    Hmmm...

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    So if you detonate in...

                                   BOMB #20
                    ... nine seconds...

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

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

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    You have no proof that it was
                    correct data.

     There is a long pause.

                                   BOMB #20
                    I must think on this further.

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    It didn't go off.

                                   PINBACK
                    Oh, God...

                                   BOILER
                    It didn't go off.

                                   PINBACK
                    Boiler, we're alive.  My heart.

     INTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

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

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

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

     Pinback is mumbling unintelligibly.

     INTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

     Pinback and Boiler have calmed down.

                                   BOILER
                    We've got to disarm the bomb.

                                   PINBACK
                    Doolittle, are you there?

     EXTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

     Doolittle is floating outside the Emergency Air Lock door.

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    Oh, sure.

     He presses a button.

     EXTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

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

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Hello, Pinback, are you there?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    Yeah, Doolittle.  What's up?

     EXTERIOR - EMERGENCY AIR LOCK

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

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

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

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

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

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Talby, Talby, can you read me?

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

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

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Talby, can you read me?

     Talby is spinning wildly.

                                   TALBY
                    Help, Doolittle, help me!

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

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

                                   BOMB #20
                              (over)
                    You are false data.

                                   PINBACK
                    Huh?

                                   BOMB #20
                    Therefore, I shall ignore you.

                                   PINBACK
                    Hello, bomb.

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

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

                                   PINBACK
                              (over)
                    Hey, bomb.

                                   BOMB #20
                    The only thing which exists is
                    myself.

                                   PINBACK
                              (over)
                    Bomb?

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

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

                                   TALBY
                    Doolittle!  Help me.

                                   DOOLITTLE
                    Calm down, Talby.  I'm coming.

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   PINBACK
                    Snap out of it, bomb.

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    What the hell?

                                   PINBACK
                    Yoo hoo, bomb...

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

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

     INTERIOR - CONTROL ROOM

                                   BOILER
                    Bomb, hey bomb.

                                   PINBACK
                    Hey, bomb...

     INTERIOR - BOMB BAY

                                   BOMB #20
                    And I saw that I was alone.

     Pause.

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

     THE SCREEN GOES WHITE.

     EXTERIOR - SPACE

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

     A BLINDING WHITE FLASH.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

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

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

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

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

Script To Screen: “Do the Right Thing”

December 31st, 2014 by

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

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

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

ANGLE--DOOR

Ahmad, Cee, Punchy, and Ella enter.

					SAL
		  We're about to close.

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

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

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

											    77.


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

					AHMAD
		  You got it.

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

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

					SAL
		  What did I tell ya 'bout dat noise?

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

					SAL
		  What da fuck!  Are you deaf?

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

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

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

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

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

					PINO
		  Radio Raheem.

					RADIO RAHEEM
		  Fuck you.

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

					RADIO RAHEEM
		  This is music.  My music.

					VITO
		  We're closed.

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

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

CLOSE--RADIO RAHEEM'S BOX

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

ANGLE--PIZZERIA

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

ANGLE--RADIO RAHEEM

Radio Raheem screams, he goes crazy.

					RADIO RAHEEM
		  My music!

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

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

The movie version of the scene:

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

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

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

Not only that, Lee provides some social commentary:

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

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

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