Script To Screen: “Milk”

April 16th, 2014 by

One of the most memorable scenes in the powerful 2008 movie Milk, written by Dustin Lance Black.

Plot Summary: The story of Harvey Milk, and his struggles as an American gay activist who fought for gay rights and became California’s first openly gay elected official.

Setting: Dan White has asked to meet in private with Harvey Milk.

INT. CITY HALL / DAN WHITE'S OFFICE - CONTINUOUS
Harvey walks in first. Dan stays between Harvey and the door. 
Dan closes it. Harvey smiles, sensing something is off.

Dan draws his revolver. Harvey raises his hand. Dan fires. 
The bullet rips through Harvey's hand and down his arm.

HARVEY MILK 
Oh no... N--

Dan fires again, silencing Harvey's cry for help.

Harvey turns away. Another bullet rips into his chest, and he 
falls to his knees, now facing the window. He staggers toward 
it. The moment is extended as we see Harvey’s POV of the 
Opera House outside the window, and the Castro beyond it.

Close on Dan, Harvey still alive. The moment almost peaceful. 
Dan puts his revolver to the back of Harvey's head. He fires. 
And just like that, Harvey falls.

A startled Dan fires once more, and walks out of the office.

Here is the scene from the movie:

A few tiny changes:

* Harvey says “No” before the first bullet is fired.

* He doesn’t say, “Oh, no,” but rather “No,” which compresses the time in which he realizes what’s happening.

* There are four gun shots, but the first three happen with Harvey facing White.

* Harvey doesn’t “stagger” toward the window, rather ends up there by his body’s reaction to being shot.

Some interesting directing and editorial choices:

* Once White closes the door, camera stays on Harvey. It’s an interesting choice. In the script, we’ve already seen White preparing his gun. Plus we know – historically – what happened, so it’s as if Van Sant (director) decided it was more important to play to Harvey’s take on what was transpiring, rather than cut to White producing his gun.

* There is only one CU of White after he closes the door: After he fires the first shot, almost as if he has a moment’s hesitation: Can I go through with this?

The moment that really hits home for me is :26-53 where Harvey kneels at the window, his gaze eventually focusing on the Opera House. It mirrors an image evoked on the very first page of the script in which in the chaos of the shooting, this happens:

Cleve shuts it out. He looks out the second story window to 
see what Harvey must have last laid eyes upon: the SF Opera 
House, and beyond it, the neighborhood that has become 
their home, The Castro.

It also recalls a scene from Harvey’s youth at the New York Opera House [P. 3] and a scene from just before the assassination in which Harvey enjoys an opera in San Francisco [P. 107].

So in his dying moments, Harvey gets to see a place of significance to him — the Opera House — and the neighborhood behind it — the Castro — both symbolic of this place he has come to call home.

And those last shots, the very conceit of that, is all in Black’s script.

What else do you see in comparing the scripted version of the scene to the movie version?

To download a free, legal PDF of the script for Milk, go here.

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

Script To Screen: “Celeste & Jesse Forever”

April 9th, 2014 by

A memorable scene from the 2012 movie Celeste & Jesse Forever, written Rashida Jones and Will McCormack.

Plot Summary: A divorcing couple tries to maintain their friendship while they both pursue other people.

In this scene, a guy Celeste (Rashida Jones) has just met tries to hit on her.

PAUL
Look, you’re really pretty. I’m not
good at this. Help. He smiles nervously.

CELESTE
(she looks at the card.) 
A financial analyst. Cool.

PAUL
Not really. It’s not cool. Did
you ever tell me what you did for a 
living?

CELESTE 
No, no I didn’t.

There is a pause in conversation. Celeste continues to put 
her shoes on.

PAUL
Well, will you? I’d love to know.

CELESTE
I’m a trend forecaster. I forecast
trends.

Paul scoffs at the notion that this is a real career.

PAUL
Trend forecaster. Really? Huh.

They have reached the parking lot. Celeste turns to him with 
purpose.

CELESTE
You traded in your Porsche for an
Audi because the economy is tanking 
and you’re afraid you’ll lose your 
job soon. You bought a Samsung cell 
phone because you think it makes 
you seem more “business-oriented,” 
unlike the iPhone which is for 
teenage girls. You go to yoga 
because you went to a sub Ivy 
League college, spent the last 
ten years working long weeks and 
drinking all weekend and you feel 
like it’s time to do something 
“spiritual.” Nice to meet you, 
(looks at the card) Paul.

Celeste walks away. Paul remains where he is, flummoxed.

Here is the scene in the movie:

The dialogue is almost word for word the same. One small tweak in the middle of the scene where they take the scene description — Paul scoffs at the notion that this is a real career — and put it into dialogue:

PAUL
Trend forecaster. Yeah.

He grins, thinking it's a joke. They stop. He looks at her. 
She's not joking.

PAUL
Are you serious? I'm sorry, 
I thought you were just--

Two questions: (1) Why do you think they made this change? (2) What do you think Paul was going to say before Celeste interrupted him? I have thoughts on both questions, but would like to hear from you first. Hit Reply and post your thoughts in comments.

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: “Saving Mr. Banks”

April 2nd, 2014 by

A fun scene from the 2013 movie Saving Mr. Banks, written by Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith.

Plot Summary: Author P.L. Travers reflects on her childhood after reluctantly meeting with Walt Disney, who seeks to adapt her Mary Poppins books for the big screen.

Here Pamela is in a story meeting with the project’s screenwriter and songwriters, early on in the creative process.

DON
Alright Ladies and gents, comical 
poem, suitable for the occasion--

Dick jumps up and sits at the piano.

DON (CONT'D) 
--extemporized and thought up
before your very eyes! Alright, 
here we go--

Dick begins to play as Bob sings, Dick pounds the keys with 
gusto, smiling away and occasionally joining in for a word or 
two of the song, almost unable to contain himself with glee. 
Bob, on the other hand, is much more serious, eyeing Travers 
for her every reaction.

BOB 
(singing)
Room here for everyone gather around,
The constable's

BOB/DICK
"responstable."

BOB
Now, how does that sound?

PAMELA 
Hold it!

Dolly winces on everyone’s behalf and leaves the room. 

PAMELA (CONT’D)
Responstable is not a word.

DICK 
(excited)
We made it up!

PAMELA 
Well, un-make it up.

Silence.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Some key small, but significant differences:

* At the beginning of the scene, the three members of the Disney creative team jump up from their chairs to which Pamela adds this dialogue:

PAMELA: What's happening? What are you doing?

The fact Pamela expresses her confusion creates more tension, emphasizing her Fish Out Of Water experience (i.e., Hollywood, Disney, filmmaking).

* Note the camera shots as the song begins, cutting from each of the Disney team to Pamela who looks on with extreme concern. Again this heightens the tension.

* Instead of “Hold it,” this is what Pamela says:

PAMELA: No, no, no, no, no, no.

More emphatic and conflictual.

Two additional details in the movie add a marvelous touch at the end.

* After Pamela says that great line — “Well, unmake it up” — she crosses out the word in her script. That little visual underscores her resistance to what she’s hearing and seeing.

* Cut to the piano where Dick exchanges a knowing glance with Bob, then a Close Up of the sheet music. And there underneath the song they are currently playing is the music for “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”. Dick quietly slips the sheet music out of view, suggesting visually that if Pamela has an issue with “responstable,” heaven knows what she would do if the guys sing that song.

It’s a wonderful one-two punch to end the moment and drive home just how far apart these two sides are. Tiny details, but resulting in a masterful little scene that is a microcosm of the overall dynamic at work between Pamela and the creative process making Mary Poppins.

You may read my interview with Saving Mr. Banks screenwriter Kelly Marcel here.

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

Script To Screen: “Moonrise Kingdom”

March 26th, 2014 by

A memorable scene from the 2012 movie Moonrise Kingdom, written and directed by Wes Anderson.

Plot Summary: A pair of young lovers flee their New England town, which causes a local search party to fan out and find them.

Sam and Suzy standing on the beach listening to the French 
singer’s record. They face each other, bobbing their heads 
and tilting awkwardly to the music. Suzy eventually begins to 
dance. Sam does something vaguely like the Twist. They press 
against each other and kiss. Suzy says quietly:

SUZY 
It feels hard.

SAM 
(embarrassed)
Do you mind?

SUZY 
I like it.

SAM 
(pause)
Tilt your head sideways.

Sam and Suzy kiss again. Sam pushes his hands through Suzy’s 
hair and draws it back behind her ears. Suzy whispers:

SUZY
You can touch my chest.

Sam slides his hand up under the training bra and presses it 
onto Suzy’s breast.

SUZY
They’re going to grow more.

Sam nods. He looks to be in a trance.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

There are some critical additions in the film version:

* First off, instead of the “I wish I was an orphan” exchange as in the movie, the scene directly preceding the dance scene is when Sam pierces Suzy’s ears so she can wear earrings he’s made.

* As they start to slow dance, this is added:

Sam kisses Suzy, then spits to the side.

Sam: I got sand in my mouth.

Suzy: Can you French kiss?
Sam: I think so. Is there any secret to it?
Suzy: The tongues touch each other.
Sam: Okay, let's try it.

I think this is a case where Anderson decided he wanted to ‘milk the moment’. And why not? This is an inspired bit of business, something toward which the story has been building. The characters (played wonderfully by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) are so earnest, sweet and endearing, the whole scene is just a delight.

Takeaway: If you hit on a great scene, be sure to explore all the possibilities in terms of action and dialogue, looking for any and all memorable moments.

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 Social Network”

March 19th, 2014 by

The final scene from the 2010 movie The Social Network, screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, based on a book by Ben Mezrich.

Plot Summary: Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg creates the social networking site that would become known as Facebook, but is later sued by two brothers who claimed he stole their idea, and the cofounder who was later squeezed out of the business.

Here is the scene from the script:

INT. FIRST DEPOSITION ROOM - NIGHT

MARK is sitting alone in the conference room. The only one 
left is MARYLIN, whose voice we just heard. The lights of the 
San Francisco skyline fill the huge picture windows.

MARYLIN
Mark?

MARK looks up at her...

MARYLIN 
We’re done for the day.

MARK
Yeah. Yeah. I was just sitting here.

MARYLIN
What happened to Sean?

MARK
He still owns 7% of the company. All you
had all day was that salad. You want to 
get something to eat?

MARYLIN
I can’t.

MARK
I’m not a bad guy.

MARYLIN
I know that. When’s there’s emotional
testimony I assume 85% of it is 
exaggeration.

MARK
And the other 15%?

MARYLIN 
Perjury. Creation myths need a devil.

MARK 
What happens now?

MARYLIN 
Sy and the others are having a steak on 
University Ave. Then they’ll come back up
to the office and start working on a 
settlement agreement to present to you.

MARK 
They’re gonna settle?

MARYLIN
Oh yeah. And you’re gonna have to pay a
little extra. 

MARK
Why?

MARYLIN
So that these guys sign a non-disclosure
agreement. They say one unflattering word 
about you in public and you own their 
wife and kids.

MARK
I invented Facebook.

MARYLIN
I’m talking about a jury. I specialize
in voir dire--jury selection. And what 
the jury sees when they look at the 
defendant. Clothes, hair, speaking 
style, likability--

MARK 
Likability?

MARYLIN
I’ve been licensed to practice law for
all of 20 months and I could get a jury 
to believe you planted the story about 
Eduardo and the chicken. Watch what else. 
Why weren’t you at Sean’s sorority party 
that night?

MARK
You think I’m the one who called the
police?

MARYLIN
Doesn’t matter. I asked the question and
now everybody’s thinking about it. You’ve 
lost your jury in the first 10 minutes.

MARK 
(pause)
Farm animals? 

MARYLIN
Yeah.

MARK
I was drunk and angry and stupid.

MARYLIN 
And blogging.

MARK 
And blogging.

MARYLIN 
(pause)
Pay them. In the scheme of things it’s 
a speeding ticket. That’s what Sy will 
tell you tomorrow.

MARK
Do you think anybody would mind if I
stayed and used the computer for a minute?

MARYLIN
I can’t imagine it would be a problem.

MARK
Thanks. I appreciate your help today.

MARYLIN
You’re not an asshole, Mark. You’re just
trying so hard to be.

MARYLIN, who’s been putting on her coat, takes her briefcase 
and exits.

MARK sits down at the computer. He logs on to Facebook. He 
types a name in the search box: “Erica Albright”.

Erica’s name and picture come up, along with Boston 
University, ‘07. Mark smiles. She’s on Facebook.

He moves the mouse back and forth between two boxes: “Send 
a Message” and “Add as a Friend”.

He clicks on “Add as a Friend”.

A box comes up that reads: “Your request to add Erica 
Albright as a friend has been sent.”

Then MARK clicks to his homepage and waits for the response.

And waits...then hits “Refresh”.

TITLE:

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss received a settlement of 65 
million dollars and signed a non-disclosure agreement.

They rowed for the U.S. Olympic Team in Beijing and 
placed sixth.

MARK is still waiting...then hits “Refresh”.

Eduardo Saverin received an unknown settlement. His name 
has been restored to the Facebook masthead as a Co-founder.

MARK is settling into his chair. He’ll wait all night if 
he has to.

Facebook has 500 million members in 207 countries. It's 
currently valued at 25 billion dollars.

Mark Zuckerberg is the youngest billionaire in the world.

MARK waits... 

And waits... 

And we

SNAP TO BLACK 

ROLL MAIN TITLE

Here is the second part of the scene in the movie:

Trust me, the dialogue in the first half of the scene is virtually identical from script to film. Hey, who would think to futz with Sorkin dialogue.

The big addition to the movie version is The Beatles song “Baby, You’re a Rich Man.” Check out how perfect the lyrics are for the movie:

“Baby, You’re A Rich Man”

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Now that you know who you are.
What do you want to be?
And have you travelled very far?
Far as the eyes can see

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
How often have you been there?
Often enough to know
What did you see when you were there?
Nothing that doesn’t show

Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man too
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo
What a thing to do
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man too

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Tuned to a natural E
Happy to be that way
Now that you’ve found another key
What are you going to play?

Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man too
You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo
What a thing to do
Baby, baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man too
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby you’re a rich man
Baby, baby you’re a rich man too (fade out)

The song takes the scene which is good on the page and makes it great.

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: “Looper”

March 12th, 2014 by

A masterful series of shots from the 2012 movie Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson.

Plot Summary: In 2074, when the mob wants to get rid of someone, the target is sent into the past, where a hired gun awaits – someone like Joe – who one day learns the mob wants to ‘close the loop’ by sending back Joe’s future self for assassination.

INT. JOE’S APARTMENT - MORNING

TITLE CARD - YEAR 1

His belongings in boxes. Joe unloads the GOLD BARS from the 
trap door.

EXT. CARGO SHIP DECK - DAY

Out at sea. Joe, bundled against the cold, leans on a 
railing, eagerly watching the horizon.

INT. SHANGHAI APARTMENT - DAY

Joe smoking in window of an empty apartment, half 
unpacked.

EXT. SHANGHAI STREETS - DAY

Joe walking the city streets, breathing deep. Alive.

INT. SHANGHAI APARTMENT - DAY

TITLE CARD - YEAR 5

Joe’s apartment, unpacked and lived in. Joe smokes.

In a NOOK behind a wall panel - stacks of CASH.

INT. SHANGHAI CLUB - NIGHT

Loud and dark. Joe shotguns eye drops right out in the open, 
dances like a madman.

EXT. SHANGHAI STREETS - DAY

TITLE CARD - YEAR 12

Cloudy and cold. Joe wanders alone. Buffeted by strangers.

INT. SHANGHAI APARTMENT - DAY

Joe takes money from the stacks in the nook, which have grown 
drastically low.

LATER - sets a hypo down in the ashtray.

EXT. SHANGHAI STREETS - DAY

Dark and menacing.

TITLE CARD - YEAR 15

EXT. SHANGHAI STREETS - DAY

A shoot-out between rival gangs. Joe is one of them. His guns 
blaze.

A remorseless killer. Blasting away, cold and skillful. 
Smashing up shops that won’t pay protection. He’s muscle.

INT. SHANGHAI GANG HEADQUARTERS

A dingy dark hallway. Distant thumping bass indicates it’s 
maybe behind a club.

The hall is lined with Chinese Gangsters, all similarly 
dressed. Reminiscent of the Gat Men. It takes us a moment 
to find Joe among them.

In his EARLY 40s now. His face a hard weathered mask. A 
soldier. (Note - it is here we transition from the actor 
playing Young Joe to the one playing Old Joe.)

EXT. SHANGHAI STREETS - DAY

TITLE CARD - YEAR 22

Snow on the ground.

INT. SHANGHAI CLUB - NIGHT

Old Joe high as a kite, in an all out brawl. Punched to the 
ground. Laughing his ass off.

A bar fight blossoms in slow motion all around.

Old Joe looks up, sees the woman who will be his WIFE for the 
first time. In a green dress. She flees the fighting, towards 
the exit.

Transfixed and high, Old Joe follows her. Puts his hand on 
her shoulder. She turns, looks him over. Flips him off. 
Leaves. Old Joe watches her go. In love.

INT. SHANGHAI BEDROOM - DAY

Old Joe in bed with his future Wife. They kiss. A ring goes 
on her finger.

EXT. CHINESE COUNTRYSIDE - DAY

A cottage in the country.

EXT. CHINESE COTTAGE - SUNSET

Old Joe in his mid 50s, his Wife lying on a hammock with him, 
reading. Hands lazily entwined. A good life.

Here is the series of shots from the movie:

Almost point for point a verbatim translation from script to screen. Suggests a filmmaker (writer-director Rian Johnson) who has a clear vision of what he wants… and that his vision works.

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 Talented Mr. Ripley”

March 5th, 2014 by

A pivotal scene from the 1999 movie The Talented Mr. Ripley, screenplay by Anthony Minghella, novel by Patricia Highsmith.

Plot Summary: In late 1950s New York, Tom Ripley, a young underachiever, is sent to Italy to retrieve a rich and spoiled millionaire playboy, named Dickie Greenleaf. But when the errand fails, Ripley takes extreme measures.

     INT. RIPLEY'S SITTING ROOM, VENICE. NIGHT.

     Marge is leaving, coat on, as Ripley comes out of the
     bathroom.

                         RIPLEY
               Marge?  Where are you going?

                         MARGE
                   (like a creature caught in
                    headlights)
               I was looking for a needle and thread. I
               wasn't snooping. I was looking for a
               needle and thread to mend my bra.

                         RIPLEY
               The scent you're wearing. I bought it for
               you, not Dickie. The thing about Dickie.
               So many things. The day he was late back
               from Rome - I tried to tell you this - he
               was with another girl. I'm not talking
               about Meredith, another girl we met in a
               bar. He couldn't be faithful for five
               minutes. So when he makes a promise it
               doesn't mean what it means when you make
               a promise. Or I do. He has so many
               realities, Dickie, and he believes them
               all. He lies. He lies, that's his... half
               the time he doesn't even realize.

     A SMALL RED STAIN is appearing on the pocket of his robe. As
     he speaks the stain spreads. He looks at it absently.

                         RIPLEY (cont'd)
               Today, for the first time, I've even
               wondered whether he might have killed
               Freddie. He would get so crazy if anybody
               contradicted him - well, you know that.
               Marge. I loved you - you might as well
               know - I loved you, and because he knew I
               loved you, he let you think I loved him.
               Didn't you see, couldn't you see? I don't
               know, maybe it's grotesque to say this
               now, so just write it on a piece of paper
               or something, and keep it in your purse
               for a rainy day. Tom loves me.

                         MARGE
                   (as if she'd heard nothing)
               Why do you have Dickie's rings?

     His hand goes to his pocket. HE'S GOING TO HAVE TO DO IT.

                         RIPLEY
               I told you. He gave them to me.

                         MARGE
               Why? When?

                         RIPLEY
               I feel as if you haven't heard anything
               I've been saying to you.

                         MARGE
               I don't believe you.

                         RIPLEY
               It's all true.

                         MARGE
               I don't believe a single word you've
               said.

     Marge is shivering. Ripley, ominous, advances, she retreats.

                         RIPLEY
               You're shivering, Marge. Can I hold you?
               Would you let me hold you?

     Marge panics, backed up against the door. She screams and
     turns straight into the arms of a startled PETER who's come
     back to visit Ripley, and is unlocking the door.

                         MARGE
                   (sobbing uncontrollably)
               Oh Peter! Get me out of here.

     Ripley storms off. His hand comes out of his pocket COVERED
     IN BLOOD from the razor. Peter notices, appalled.

                         PETER
               Tom, are you okay?

                         RIPLEY
               You try. You try talking to her.

                         PETER
                   (calls after him)
               Tom. Tom! Tell me, what's going on?

                         RIPLEY
                   (not turning around)
               I give up.

Here is the film version of the scene:

The movie is tied closely to what’s in the script… with the exception of the individual shots. Coverage by the director of both actors, then cut together in post. But the dialogue is almost word for word the same in the movie.

I would like to make this point. The script provides yet another example of a so-called ‘unfilmable’ which are supposedly — according some mysterious screenwriting ‘gurus’ — unacceptable. But there’s this right there in the script:

His hand goes to his pocket. HE’S GOING TO HAVE TO DO IT.

He’s going to have to do it.

This is the screenwriter going inside the character’s mindset, his inner world to convey what is going on in the moment. It is not dialogue. It is not action. It is ‘unfilmable.’

And yet the screenwriter felt fine in using it, indeed, CAPITALIZING it to underscore the point. Why? Because it is the best way to convey the tone and atmosphere what is transpiring between the two characters.

We should be judicious when we editorialize like this, but the simple fact is screenwriters do have the right to do this… as long as we do it well… as here.

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

Script To Screen: “The Artist”

February 26th, 2014 by

A cute scene that turns into a significant plot point from the 2011 silent movie The Artist, written and directed by Michel Hazanavicius.

Plot Summary: A silent movie star meets a young dancer, but the arrival of talking pictures sends their careers in opposite directions.

Here is the scene from the script:

Behind George, the two set hands come back with a new screen
of sky scenery, and wait, standing just next to George. As
they are holding it, there is a three foot gap underneath.
While the producer is talking to him, George's attention is
drawn by a lovely pair of women's legs that have come to
stand behind the screen, the top half of the body being
hidden by it. George acknowledges the sight with a smile and
is about to bring his attention back to the on-going
discussion, when his attention is drawn away again by a
noise, that of the tap steps the female legs are making,
presumably as a warm up. George smiles in recognition and
responds with a few tap steps of his own. The women's legs
instantly stop, seem to think a moment and then answer back,
but with a jump in the complexity of the steps. A tap
dialogue ensues between the two pairs of legs, until the set
hands - the path before them now cleared - pick up their
screen of scenery and walk off with it. The screen moves away
and as it disappears reveals that the upper body belongs to a
young woman. She pulls a face meaning 'Here I am!!' And of
course it's Peppy, except that she immediately realizes who
she is dealing with - visibly she wasn't expecting this at
all - and feels completely ridiculous and uncomfortable.

Her joyful expression gradually becomes one of abject
apology, but George is roaring with laughter.

After a short pause, Zimmer makes the connection. He checks
the front page of the paper, and recognizes her!

Then he begins shouting at her and all she can do is lower
her head, unable to reply. He gestures that she's fired and
for her to get out, and she starts to go, completely
distraught.

Here is the scene in the movie:

It’s interesting to note that the movie mimics silent film not only in what’s on screen, but also in one key respect with the script itself: Big blocks of scene description! For instance, here is a script excerpt for the 1903 silent film The Great Train Robbery:

Scene 1: Interior of railroad telegraph office. Two masked robbers 
enter and compel the operator to get the “signal block” to stop the 
approaching train, and make him write a fictitious order to the engineer to 
take water at this station, instead of “Red Lodge,” the regular watering 
stop.  The train comes to a standstill (seen through window of office); 
the conductor comes to the window, and the frightened operator delivers the 
order while bandits crouch out of sight, at the same time keeping him 
covered with their revolvers.  As soon as the operator leaves, they fall 
upon the operator, bind and gag him, and hastily depart to catch the 
moving train.

Scene 2: Railroad water tower.  The bandits are hiding behind the tank as the 	 	    
train, under the false order, stops to take water.  Just before she pulls 	 	    
out they stealthily board the train between the express car and the tender.

Scene 3: Interior of express car.  Messenger is busily engaged.  An unusual 		    
sound alarms him.  He goes to the door, peeps through the keyhole and 	    
discovers two men trying to break in.  He starts back bewildered, but, 	  	    
quickly recovering, he hastily locks the strong box containing the 	 	 	    
valuables and throws the key through the open side door.  Drawing his 	 	    
revolver, he crouches behind a desk.  In the meantime, the two robbers have 
succeeded in breaking in the door and enter cautiously.  The messenger opens 
fire, and a desperate pistol duel takes place in which the messenger is 
killed.  One of the robbers stands watch while the other tries to open the 
treasure box.  Finding it locked, he vainly searches the messenger for the 
key, and blows the safe open with dynamite.  Securing the valuables and 
mailbag, they leave the car.

Contemporary screenplays put a premium on white space with paragraphs typically no more than 4-5 lines with some types of scripts, action genre in particular often having 1-2 line blocks of description.

That said, the script for The Artist does a great job conveying not only action, but also the mood of the characters within the piece.

You may download the official draft of The Artist screenplay here along with over 80 other free, legal scripts.

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: “Hanna”

February 19th, 2014 by

A key scene from the terrific 2011 movie Hanna, screenplay by Seth Lochhead and David Farr, story by Seth Lochhead.

Plot Summary: A sixteen-year-old girl who was raised by her father to be the perfect assassin is dispatched on a mission across Europe, tracked by a ruthless intelligence agent and her operatives.

INT. CIA LANGLEY OPERATIONAL HQ. EARLY DAWN. CONT.

MARISSA WIEGLER sits alone in the empty CIA Langley
headquarters, watching the CCTV relay staring at the face of 
this strange little girl. 

HANNA
Where am I?

INT. HANNA’’S HOLDING CELL - CONTINUOUS

HANNA stares at FALSE MARISSA awaiting an answer.

FALSE MARISSA
You’’re in a safe place.

HANNA
Where did you meet my father?

The false MARISSA pauses.

INT. OPERATIONAL HQ. LANGLEY - CONTINUOUS

MARISSA hears the question. Thinks fast, her mind totally
focussed.

MARISSA
Erik. I met him by a news kiosk in 
Alexanderplatz, East Berlin. Say it
was raining. He had just arrived
from Prague. 

INT. HANNA’’S HOLDING CELL - CONTINUOUS

FALSE MARISSA pauses looking at HANNA. We see that she has a
tiny microphone in her ear.

FALSE MARISSA
You mean Erik?

Hanna nods.

FALSE MARISSA (CONT’’D)
Yes. I met him at a news kiosk.
Alexanderplatz. In the rain. He had
just arrived from Prague...

HANNA, looking at FALSE MARISSA, reading her face.

INT. CAMP G. OBSERVATION ROOM - CONTINUOUS

LEWIS watches on the screen. But then gets a call from the
Military Laboratory.

LEWIS
Go ahead.

MILITARY DOCTOR
Sir, we’’ve completed the tests on 
the girl. 

MARISSA (V.O.)
Who authorized tests? 

On screen: FALSE MARISSA and HANNA. 

FALSE MARISSA
Do you know where your father is?

LEWIS, half watching the screen, talking to the intercom.

LEWIS
I authorized them. Blood, 
urinalysis, hair. All standard. 

INT. OPERATIONAL HQ. LANGLEY - CONTINUOUS

MARISSA, alone in Langley, suddenly alert.

MARISSA
Send the results directly to me.

LEWIS 
Walt and Bob-- 

MARISSA 
If Walt and Bob come asking, send
Walt and Bob directly to me. 

FALSE MARISSA
(filtered) 
Did he tell you where he was going?
We’’re all worried about him.

ON CCTV: Hanna cries, holds out her arms.

INT. CAMP G. OBSERVATION ROOM - CONTINUOUS

MONITOR
Sir look.

LEWIS turns to the screen as FALSE MARISSA tentatively takes 
HANNA in her arms. 

LEWIS 
Agent keep your distance. 

INT. HANNA’’S HOLDING CELL - CONTINUOUS

The FALSE MARISSA tentatively takes HANNA in her arms.

FALSE MARISSA
It’’s OK. It’’s OK.

HANNA coils her thin arms around the FALSE MARISSA’’S neck,
clinging to her like a monkey.

The FALSE MARISSA looks up to the security camera, slightly
concerned. Hanna wriggles in her arms, to get a better
grip...

INT. OPERATIONAL HQ. LANGLEY - CONTINUOUS 

MARISSA watches. 

HANNA begins to weep more and more, burrowing her face into
the FALSE MARISSA.

BURTON (V.O.)
(filtered) 
You want me to give her something?

INT. HANNA’’S HOLDING CELL - CONTINUOUS

HANNA clutching on to FALSE MARISSA, nestles close, weeps. 

FALSE MARISSA
I think it might be necessary.

INT. OPERATIONAL HQ. LANGLEY. CONT.

MARISSA watches. Intrigued. Almost excited.

INT. CORRIDOR OUTSIDE HANNA’’S HOLDING CELL - CONTINUOUS

Burton comes rushing down the corridor filling a syringe as
he goes. He arrives at HANNA’’S door.

BURTON
Open up.

The first guard opens HANNA’’S door.

INT. HANNA’’S HOLDING CELL - CONTINUOUS

Hanna hugs, weeping, on to the FALSE MARISSA. BURTON hears
the instruction to abort but too late...

...as suddenly and with total efficiency HANNA SNAPS the
FALSE MARISSA’’s neck.

INT. OPERATIONAL HQ. LANGLEY. DAY. CONT.

MARISSA stands up as her false self, ON SCREEN, slumps dead
to the floor. 

HANNA grabs the first GUARDS handgun from his holster and 
fires two rounds, BURSTING BURTON’’S EYE. And two more into 
the first GUARD’’s chest.

Marissa leans in, captivated.

MARISSA
(whispers)
Oh my.

INT. CAMP G. OBSERVATION ROOM. CONT.

LEWIS immediately presses the Alarm Bell.

LEWIS
Holy hell! Wiegler, Wiegler?

On another screen LEWIS watches as the other Guard tries to
drag the metal door shut. He hits a fleshy door jam - Burton.
Hanna is upon him. Two shots.

MARISSA watches HANNA aim straight at camera. HANNA’’S fierce
eyes looking at her, MARISSA cant help but pull away from the
screen. HANNA fires and the screen goes blank.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

There are a few notable differences including shifting one interchange out of this scene, but notice how close some of the key pieces of action mirror the script… and how the taut, yet vivid description matches what was shot.

What did you see and hear in comparing the scripted version of the scene and the movie version? Please head to comments and share your observations.

You may download the studio approved script for Hanna here along with over 80 other free, legal screenplays, all of them in PDF format.

You may read my interview with screenwriter Seth Lochhead here.

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

Script To Screen: “A Serious Man”

February 12th, 2014 by

Leave it to the Coen brothers (Joel and Ethan) to come up with a denouement in their 2009 movie A Serious Man that resolves virtually nothing and leaves the audience with a sense of impending doom.

Plot Summary: Larry Gopnik, a Midwestern mathematics teacher, watches his life unravel over multiple sudden incidents. Though seeking meaning and answers amidst his turmoils, he seems to keep sinking.

Here is the scene from the script:

LARRY’S OFFICE

He stares down at his desktop.

Thunder.

He reaches up and scratches his nose, staring.

On the desk: a ledger sheet with a list of students’ names. Next to each name, a grade. 

Larry drums his fingers.

He picks up a pencil.

He goes down to PARK, CLIVE. Next to it is an F.

He waggles the pencil, eraser-end thumping the sheet.

He erases the F. He enters a C.

The pencil leaves frame. We hold on the new grade.

After a beat the hand reenters to put a minus sign after the C. The hand withdraws.

The phone jangles, very harsh.

Larry looks at it, frozen.

He lets it ring a couple times.

He reaches for it. He hesitantly unprongs it.

Larry
. . .Hello?

Voice
Larry 

Larry
. . . Yes?

Voice
Hi, Len Shapiro.

Larry
Oh. Hello Dr. Shapiro.

Dr. Shapiro 
Listen, mazel tov on Danny.

Larry
Yes, thank you.

Dr. Shapiro
Listen, could you come in to discuss these X-ray results?

Larry sits frozen, phone to his ear. . . . 

Dr. Shapiro
Hello?

Larry
Yes?

Dr. Shapiro
Larry, could you come in and discuss these X-ray results?
Remember the X-rays we took?

Larry
. . . We can’t discuss them on the phone?

Thunder. Pattering rain.

Dr. Shapiro
I think we’d be more comfortable in person. Can you come
in? 

A beat.

Larry
When?

Dr. Shapiro
Now. Now is good. I’ve cleared some time now.

TALMUD TORAH PARKING LOT

It is overcast, dark, and extremely windy. The students mill about in flapping cloths, 
Danny with his radio earpiece still in place.

A teacher is fumbling with keys at the door to the shul. 

Mark Sallerson shouts above the wind:

Mark Sallerson
That fucking flag is gonna rip right off the flagpole!

CAR

We are looking at Larry through a windshield lashed by rain. His drives with hands 
clenched on the wheel. Wipers pump to keep up with the rain. The cars behind have 
their lights on. It has gotten quite dark.

Passing streetlights rhythmically sweep Larry’s face, their light stippled and bent 
by the rain on the windows.

TALMUD TORAH PARKING LOT

Danny’s head bobs in time to the music. Wind whips his hair. We hear, very 
compressed, the beginning of “Somebody to Love.”

Danny spots a shaggy-haired youth among the milling students. 

Danny
Hey! Fagle!

Danny notices something past Fagle: a funnel cloud in the middle distance. 

A growing rumble. The tornado is approaching.

At the first downbeat of its chorus the Jefferson Airplane song bumps up full. 

We cut to black, and credits.

Here is the scene from the movie:

There are two significant editorial differences between the script and the screen. Can you spot them? Why do you think the Coens decided to make those choices?

I love this movie and although it did very little business, I believe it is one of the Coen’s best films, much of it an homage to their youth in Minnesota, but wrapped in a modern day parable a la Job from the Old Testament. If you haven’t seen A Serious Man, put it on your watch list.

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.