Script To Screen: “Cool Hand Luke”

December 17th, 2014 by

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

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

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

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

               FULLER ANGLE

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

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

               LUKE AND OTHERS BEHIND HIM

               as he gets to his feet.

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

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

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

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

               The second round is called and Luke advances toward Dragline.

               TWO SHOT LUKE, DRAGLINE

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

               THE MEN

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

               INTERCUT THE VARIOUS REACTIONS

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

               ANGLE ON DRAGLINE

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

               ANGLE ON CAPTAIN

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

               ON LUKE

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

               ON DRAGLINE

               waiting, gloves at waist level, poised.

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

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

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

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

               ANGLE ON CAPTAIN

               concerned.

               ANGLE ON BOSS GODFREY

               impassive.

               ANGLE ON DRAGLINE

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

               ANGLE ON LUKE

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

Here is the movie version of the scene:

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

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

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

Script To Screen: “Collateral”

December 10th, 2014 by

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

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

Here is the scene from the script

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

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

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

                           WHITE GUY #1
                 Yo, whassup?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                           MAX
                 Are you kidding me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      WHITE GUY #1

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

      BACK OF WHITE GUY #1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is the scene from the movie:

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

Script To Screen: “Clerks”

December 3rd, 2014 by

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

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

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


               EXT: CONVENIENCE STORE. DAY

               JAY, SILENT BOB and OLAF lean against wall.

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

               TWO GIRLS join them.

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

                                     GIRL 1
                         Scumbag. What are you doing?

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

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

                                     JAY
                         Check this out, he's from Russia.

                                     GIRL 1
                         No way.

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

               SILENT BOB SHAKES HIS HEAD:

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

                                     GIRL 2
                         What part of Russia?

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

               OLAF looks quizzically at SILENT BOB.

                                     SILENT BOB
                              (in Russian)
                         Home.

                                     OLAF
                              (comprehending)
                         Moscow.

                                     GIRL 1
                         He only speaks Russian?

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

                                     GIRL 2
                         Is he staying here?

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

                                     GIRL 1
                         No way!

                                     JAY
                         Swear.
                              (to OLAF)
                         Olaf, metal!

               OLAF makes a metal face.

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

               OLAF looks the girls up and down.

                                     OLAF
                         Skrelnick.

                                     JAY
                              (laughs)
                         That's fucked up.

                                     GIRL 1
                         What did he say?

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

                                     GIRL 2
                         He really wants to play metal?

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

                                     GIRL 1
                         That doesn't sound metal.

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

               OLAF laughs and shakes his head.

                                     JAY
                         Come on, man, "Berserker!"

                                     GIRL 2
                         Does he sing in English or Russian?

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

                                     OLAF
                              (relents)
                         Da. Da.

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

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

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

                                     GIRL 1
                         Did he say "making fuck?"

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

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

               OLAF busts a crimson metal sneer and cackles deeply.

                                                                    CUT TO:

Here is the scene in the movie:

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

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

Script To Screen: “Citizen Kane”

November 26th, 2014 by

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

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

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

Here is the scene from the script:

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

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

INT. SUSAN'S BEDROOM - XANADU - 1929

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

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

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

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

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

					KANE
				(without turning)
			Close the door, Raymond.

					RAYMOND
			Yes, sir.
				(he closes it)

					KANE
			Lock it - and keep it locked.

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

					KANE
			Raymond -
				(he is almost in a trance)

					RAYMOND
			Yes, sir -

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

					KANE
			Keep it locked.

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

Here is the movie version of the scene:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Script To Screen: “Bull Durham”

November 19th, 2014 by

One of the funnier scenes from the 1988 movie Bull Durham, written by Ron Shelton.

IMDb plot summary: A fan who has an affair with one minor-league baseball player each season meets an up-and-coming pitcher and the experienced catcher assigned to him.

		EXT.  DURHAM STADIUM -- LATER -- NIGHT

		GAME IN PROGRESS -- Nuke on the mound.

		NUKE WINDS AND DELIVERS -- Very high.  Ball three.

									CUT TO:

		INSIDE THE DUGOUT -- Skip and Larry spitting tobacco.

						SKIP
				Nuke's overthrowing tonight, he 
				don't look loose.  Anything 
				bothering him?

						LARRY
				He said his chakras were jammed 
				and he was breathing out of the 
				wrong nostril.

						SKIP
					(spitting tobacco)
				Okay...

									CUT TO:

		BACK TO THE MOUND

		NUKE WINDS AND DELIVERS AGAIN -- Very high.  Ball four.

		CRASH IS QUICKLY to the mound.

						CRASH
				What's wrong?

						NUKE
				I'm nervous--my old man's here.

		NUKE MOTIONS -- They both look.

		--P.O.V.  NUKE'S FATHER SITTING in a special box seat.  The 
		man is 45, and is operating a home video camera taking 
		pictures of his son.

						CRASH
				Hey, he's just your father, man--
				he's as full of shit as anybody.

		TOMMY AND DEKE JOIN THEM at the mound.

						DEKE
				What the hell's going on?

						TOMMY
				You breathing through the wrong 
				fucking nostril again?

						DEKE
				Hey, you guys hear Jimmy and Millie 
				are engaged?!  Wait'll I tell him 
				she's gone down on half the 
				Carolina League--

						CRASH
					(threatening)
				Anybody says anything bad about 
				Millie, I'll break his neck.

						NUKE
				Hey, guys, I got a game to pitch.

		JOSE THE FIRST BASEMAN JOINS THEM ALL at the mound.

						JOSE
				Don't throw anything to me--my 
				girlfriend put a curse on my glove.

						NUKE
				I'll take the curse off the son 
				of a bitch!

						JOSE
				Then you got to cut the head off 
				a live rooster.

						NUKE
				Shit.

		MICKEY JOINS THE CROWD from third base.

						MICKEY
				Don't worry, man, this umpire's a 
				God damn racist.

		P.O.V.  THE UMPIRE -- He's black.

									CUT TO:

		THE DUGOUT -- SKIP AND LARRY watch the growing meeting.

						SKIP
				What the hell's going on out there?

						LARRY
				It's a damn convention.

						SKIP
				Check it out.

									CUT TO:

		THE MOUND -- Larry joins the convention.

						LARRY
				What the hell's going on out here?

						CRASH
				Nuke's scared cause his nostrils 
				are jammed and his old man's here, 
				we need a live rooster to take 
				the curse off Jose's glove, and 
				nobody knows what to get Jimmy 
				and Millie for their wedding 
				present--there's a whole lotta 
				shit we're trying to deal with--

						LARRY
				Oh.  I thought there was a problem.

									CUT TO:

Here is the scene from the movie:

Basically the same with two key changes. First, Nuke’s problem isn’t with his nostrils, it’s with his eyelids. That’s funnier, of course. Nostrils can get jammed (stuffy nose). Eyelids? Not so much.

The other change is Larry’s last line. “Oh. I though there was a problem,” is pretty flat. So my guess is the actor Robert Wuhl improvised some lines (he started out as a stand-up comic) and ended up with this: “Okay, well, uh… candlesticks always make a nice gift, and uh, maybe you could find out where she’s registered and maybe a place-setting or maybe a silverware pattern. Okay, let’s get two! Go get ‘em.” His side really drives home the inanity of grown men in the middle of a professional baseball game discussing wedding gifts.

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: “Braveheart”

November 12th, 2014 by

A scene from the 1995 movie Braveheart, written by Randall Wallace.

IMDb plot summary: When his secret bride is executed for assaulting an English soldier who tried to rape her, William Wallace begins a revolt and leads Scottish warriors against the cruel English tyrant who rules Scotland with an iron fist.

In this scene, young William mourns the murders of his father and uncle. Even though the video cuts in midway through, I’ve started the scene at the beginning to provide context.

               EXT. GRAVESIDE - DAY

               CLOSE on a grave, with a headstone marked ANNE WALLACE. We 
               INCLUDE the two new graves freshly dug beside it, and see 
               the mourners gathered before them. The sight of the boy, 
               standing alone in front of the graves of his dead mother, as 
               the bodies of his father and brother are lowered with ropes 
               into the ground beside her, has all of the neighbors shaken.

               The local parish PRIEST drones mechanically in Latin.

               The farmers who were secretly gathered in Malcolm Wallace's 
               kitchen the previous night are now glancing at William; but 
               no one is anxious to adopt a grieving, a rebellious boy.

               Behind MacClannough are his wife and two daughters; his 
               youngest is barely four, not half William's age; she's a 
               beautiful girl with long auburn hair, and she clings to her 
               own mother's hand, as if the open graves are the mouths of 
               death and might suck her parents in too.

                                     PRIEST
                         ...Restare in pacem eternis, Amen.

               With the final Amen, the neighbors drift from the graveside, 
               pulling their Children along, to give William a last moment 
               of private grief before the grave diggers cover the bodies.

               The boy stands alone over the open graves, his heart so 
               shattered that he can scarcely cry; a single tear makes its 
               way down his face. And the tiny girl feels for William in a 
               way that the adults cannot. From the ground she pulls a 
               Scottish thistle, moves to the softly weeping William and 
               places the beautiful wild blossom in his hand.

               William looks up and their young eyes meet; her sad blue 
               eyes hold William's as the grave diggers cover the bodies.

               Then a lone, mounted figure appears at the crest of the hill 
               above them. Tall, thin and angular, in black clerical garb, 
               he looks like the grim reaper.

               The girl hurries back to her mother's side.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Two things. A screenwriter can suggest action, but in scenes such as this, even more important to convey atmosphere, the psychological mood of the moment. Then let the director direct… and the actors act… and the editor edit. Compare the results in the movie to the few lines in the script. You’ll see what I mean.

Second, the single best thing about this exchange between William and the young girl is what isn’t there: Dialogue. It reminds us yet again that movies are primarily a visual medium. The image of the flower handed from the girl to a grieving William says it all.

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 Bourne Identity”

November 5th, 2014 by

A scene from the 2002 movie The Bourne Identity, screenplay by Tony Gilroy and William Blake Herron, novel by Robert Ludlum.

IMDb plot summary: A man is picked up by a fishing boat, bullet-riddled and suffering from amnesia, before racing to elude assassins and regain his memory.

Here Bourne (Matt Damon) finds himself in Zurich with hardly any memory of who he is and where he’s been.

        EXT. ZURICH PARK -- NIGHT

        THE MAN trying to get comfortable on a bench.  It's chilly
        but this will have to do until morning.

        Just settling in, when --

                             ZURICH COP #1 (OS)
                        (authority German)
                   (Can't you read the signs?)

        THE MAN turns.  TWO ZURICH COPS coming toward him.

                             ZURICH COP #2 
                   (On your feet.  Let's go.  Right now.)

        THE MAN makes his feet.  They're on top of him now.

                             ZURICH COP #1
                   (The park is closed.  There's no
                   sleeping in the park.)

                             ZURICH COP #2
                   (Let's see some identification.)

        THE MAN not sure what to do.  Eyes moving.  Mouth shut.

                             ZURICH COP #1
                   (Come on.  Your papers.  Let's go.)

                             THE MAN
                   I've lost them.  I've.
                        (German now)
                   (My papers.  They are lost.)

                             ZURICH COP #1
                        (not sympathetic)
                   (Okay.  Let's go.  Put your hands up.)

                             ZURICH COP #2
                        (pulling his nightstick)
                   (-- come on -- hands up -- up --)

        THE MAN raising his hand slowly -- ZURICH COP #1 reaching up
        to pat him down --

                             THE MAN
                   -- look, I'm just trying to sleep
                   okay? --
                        (German again)
                   (-- I just need to sleep --)

        ZURICH COP #2 has heard enough -- giving a sharp poke with
        the nightstick -- into THE MAN's back -- and that's the last
        thing he'll remember because --

        THE MAN is in motion.

        A single turn -- spinning -- catching COP #2 completely off
        guard -- the heel of his hand driving up into the guy's
        throat and --

        COP #1 -- behind him -- trying to reach for his pistol, but
        THE MAN -- still turning -- all his weight moving in a
        single fluid attack -- a sweeping kick and --

        COP #1 -- he's falling -- catching the bench -- trying to
        fight back but -- THE MAN -- like a machine -- just 
        unbelievably fast -- three jackhammer punches -- down-down-
        down and -- COP #1 -- head slammed into the bench -- blood
        spraying from his nose -- he's out cold and --

        COP #2 -- writhing on the ground -- gasping for air -- 
        struggling with his holster -- THE MAN -- his foot -- 
        down -- like a vise -- onto COP #2's arm -- shattering the 
        bone -- COP #2 starting to scream, and then silenced because -- 

        THE MAN -- he's got the pistol -- so fucking fast -- he's
        got it right up against COP #2's forehead -- right on the
        edge of pulling the trigger -- he is, he's gonna shoot him --

                             ZURICH COP #2
                        (gasping, pleading)
                   (-- no -- please God no -- please
                   don't -- please no -- my Go--)
                        (stopping as--)

        THE MAN slams the gun against his temple and --

        This fight is over.

        THE MAN standing there.  In the silence.  Two unconscious
        cops at his feet.  Blood on his pants.  What just happened?
        How did he do this?  And there's THE GUN in his hand.  And
        God, it just feels so natural -- checking it -- stripping it
        down -- holding it -- aiming it -- like this is something
        he's done a million times before...

        This is something he definitely knows how to do.

        And then he stops cold.  Throwing down the gun.  Running off
        into the darkness --

Here is the movie version of the scene:

Some intriguing differences, primarily in trimming the action. No blood. No pleading from the cop. No jamming the gun against the cop’s temple. Just wham, wham, wham, wham! Cops down. My guess is the director (Doug Liman) and perhaps Gilroy in production decided it was better to focus on the suddenness and brevity of Bourne’s actions to drive home to him – Bourne – the instantaneous shock of what he is capable of.

Beyond the action description, check out the moment after the altercation and how Gilroy describes it: The MAN standing there. In the silence. Two unconscious cops at his feet. Blood on his pants. What just happened? How did he do this? And there’s THE GUN in his hand. And God, it just feels so natural… like this is something he’s done a million times before.

Gilroy gets novelistic, describing Bourne’s inner thoughts. It’s effective writing at a key moment: To bring the script reader into the experience of the Protagonist and convey his feelings about what he just did.

What other thoughts do you have about this scene? Love to hear them.

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: “Boogie Nights”

October 29th, 2014 by

A key scene from the 1997 movie Boogie Nights, written by Paul Thomas Anderson.

IMDB plot summary: The story of a young man’s adventures in the Californian pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

INT. RAHAD JACKSON'S HOUSE - NIGHT - THAT MOMENT

A really big fat black BODYGUARD comes to the door and opens up:

BODYGUARD
Hello. Come on in.

The bodyguard leads them down a hall and into a tacky and spacious, sunken
LIVING ROOM.

They're greeted by a man in a silk robe, slightly open to show some bikini
briefs and a thin sheen of sweat covering his body: RAHAD JACKSON (late
40s).

Off in a corner of the room, a YOUNG ASIAN KID is casually throwing some
FIRECRACKERS around.

Rahad is DANCING around by himself to NIGHT RANGER, "SISTER CHRISTIAN." He
spots the men;

RAHAD
Hello, friends. Which one is Todd?

TODD
That's me. We met before at the club --

RAHAD
Oh, yeah. Come on in here.

TODD
These are my friends Dirk and Reed.

RAHAD
Great to meet you. You guys want something
to drink -- or a pill -- or some coke --
or some dope?

DIRK/REED/TODD
No thank you, thanks, no.

RAHAD
So what do we have, we have, something, yeah?

TODD
Here it is . . . half a key . . . it's really good,
if you wanna test it out --

RAHAD
Oh, wait a minute, I love this part:
(sings along)
"SISTER CHRISTIAN, THERE'S SO MUCH
IN LIFE, DON'T YOU GIVE IT UP BEFORE
YOUR TIME IS DUE . . . IT'S TRUE!"
(to Dirk)
This song is so amazing.
Anyway: What's the price?

TODD
We were thinking five thousand.

RAHAD
That's good. No problem, cool, cool.

The Bodyguard brings over a PAPER BAG FULL OF CASH and hands the bag to
Todd in exchange for the PAPER BAG FULL OF BAKING SODA.

Reed watches the Bodyguard take the bag and notices something. REED'S POV:
a SHOULDER HOLSTER holds a .45 Automatic Pistol.

Rahad does an air guitar solo to the Night Ranger song . . . he walks
across the room, picks up a COKE PIPE and looks to the guys;

RAHAD
You wanna play baseball?

DIRK/REED/TODD
No thank you.

Rahad strokes the pipe while dancing. Dirk looks across to an open bedroom
door.

DIRK'S POV: Through the crack in the door, we can see a bloody, battered
YOUNG BLACK WOMAN in a silk robe . . .she's followed by another YOUNG WHITE
GIRL in nothing.

RAHAD (OC)
Check this out --

He takes out a nickel plated REVOLVER and loads a single bullet, spins the
chamber and puts it to his head and sings;

RAHAD
SISTER CHRISTIAN -- OH THE TIME HAS
COME . . . AND YOU KNOW THAT YOU'RE
THE ONLY ONE TO SAY . . . OK . . .

He pulls the trigger . . . Click . . . he smiles and casually speaks;

RAHAD
I put a mix tape together of all
my favorite songs . . . This is song number
three . . . I love putting mix tapes together,
you know . . . if you buy an album or tape or
something, those guys put the songs in their
order and they try and say how you should listen
to the songs, but I don't like that.
I don't like to be told what to listen
to, when to listen to or anything . . .

The Night Ranger song FADES OUT . . . BEAT . . . Rahad smiles at the Asian
Kid who's casually throwing some firecrackers around.

RAHAD
(to Dirk/Reed/Todd)
He's Chinese . . . he loves to set
off firecrackers . . .

REO SPEEDWAGON, "CAN'T FIGHT THIS FEELING," begins to play.

RAHAD
I CAN'T FIGHT THIS FEELING ANY LONGER
AND YET I'M STILL AFRAID TO LET IT FLOW.
WHAT STARTED OUT AS FRIENDSHIP HAS GROWN
STRONGER -- I ONLY WISH I HAD THE STRENGTH
TO LET IT SHOW --

DIRK
Well . . . I think maybe . . . we better 
get going --

RAHAD
No, stay. Hang out. We'll party.

DIRK
No, we really gotta split.
We have to be somewhere and we --

Dirk and Rahad continue to haggle about leaving/not leaving. CAMERA BEGINS
A SLOW DOLLY INTO A CU ON TODD.

TODD
We're Not Leaving Yet.

Dirk and Reed look at Todd. He stands up.

TODD
We're here now and we want something else.
Hey -- Hey. We Want Something Else From You.

RAHAD
What?

DIRK
Todd -- what the hell are you doing?

TODD
In the master bedroom, under the bed,
in a floor safe . . . You understand?

The Bodyguard turns his head. Dirk and Reed are confused;

DIRK
Todd . . . what the fuck, man, c'mon --

TODD
Shut up, Dirk. I told you I got a plan.
I got a good plan.

RAHAD
Are you kiddin' me kittie?

TODD
No I'm not. I'm not kidding. We want
what's in the safe. We want what's in
the safe in the floor under the bed in
the master bedroom.

DIRK
Todd -- don't be crazy.
(to Rahad)
Sir -- we don't know anything about this.
This is not the thing that we wanted.

TODD
SHUT THE FUCK UP, DIRK.

The BODYGUARD reaches into his coat . . .

. . . Todd pulls his REVOLVER quickly and AIMS at the Bodyguard.

TODD
Don't reach for your gun.

. . . Rahad reacts by AIMING HIS GUN AT TODD . . .

RAHAD
You don't wanna do this, friendly.

TODD
You've only got one bullet.

Rahad PULLS THE TRIGGER . . . a bullet FIRES from the gun and strikes Todd
in the SHOULDER . . . the gun in his hand falls to the floor and he
stumbles back . . .

. . . The Bodyguard takes this moment to GRAB HIS OWN GUN from the holster
and FIRE off shots at Dirk and Reed . . .

. . . Bullets graze past them and they DUCK FOR COVER . . .

. . . The GIRLS in the bedroom SCREAM and SHOUT at the gunfire . . .

. . . A STRAY BULLET HITS the ASIAN KID in the heart, but he doesn't fall .
. .

. . . TODD reaches hold of his gun, crouches for cover and FIRES a bullet
STRAIGHT INTO the Bodyguard . . . who falls back DEAD . . . Todd looks
right and sees:

RAHAD scuttles into the bedroom with the women . . . Todd looks over his
shoulder to Dirk and Reed;

DIRK
WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING, TODD?

TODD
He went in the bedroom.

DIRK
ARE YOU CRAZY? WHEN DID YOU GO CRAZY?

TODD
He's got cash and coke in the safe
under the bed -- if we leave here
without it we're fools.

REED
Let's just split, let's just split
right now, Todd. Don't be stupid.
This wasn't part of the deal.

TODD
I'm goin' in that bedroom and get what's
in that safe. Are you coming?

DIRK
Fuck no. Todd. Don't. Don't do it.

Todd gets up and heads for the bedroom with his revolver at the ready . . .
he inches closer to the door and twists the door knob, then KICKS THE DOOR
OPEN;

. . . Rahad is standing right there, holding a SAWED OFF SHOTGUN. He pulls
the trigger . . . Todd blinks . . .

. . . Rahad's SHOTGUN BLAST blows Todd BACK and UP in the air about fifteen
feet . . . he FALLS to the ground with a HOLE in his STOMACH about the size
of a basketball . . . Rahad calls out to Dirk and Reed;

RAHAD
C'mon out, little puppies. You want to
come and see, come and see, to get what
is coming down. Coming down.

Rahad peers out from his bedroom, sees a sliver of Dirk behind the wall.
Rahad FIRES HIS SHOTGUN . . . which cuts right past Dirk's head and SHREDS
the wall near him . . .

Reed and Dirk make a DASH for the front door . . .

. . . Rahad FIRES another shot . . .

. . . a BLAST BREEZES PAST THEIR HEADS . . .

Dirk and Reed make it OUTSIDE . . . Rahad chases after them . . .

CUT TO:

EXT. RAHAD'S HOUSE - THAT MOMENT

Reed and Dirk make a dash for the Corvette -- they're steps away when a
SHOTGUN BLAST BLOWS INTO THE PASSENGER'S SIDE DOOR --

Reed heads away from the car -- makes a run diagonally across the street
for shelter behind some SHRUBS and TREES -- (he gets lost from CAMERA)

Dirk gets around to the driver's side of the Corvette, shielded and
crouched -- he opens the door and starts to get in --

ANOTHER SHOT BLOWS THE PASSENGER'S SIDE WINDOW OUT.

GLASS SPRAYS IN HIS EYES AND HIS HAND SLIPS DOWN, RELEASING THE EMERGENCY
BRAKE OF THE CAR -- WHICH BEGINS TO ROLL DOWN THE STREET--

Dirk stumbles back from the car. He looks to the house:

Rahad is about to FIRE the shotgun again . . .

. . . he looks down the street: the Corvette is ROLLING away and picking up
speed as it goes down the hill --

Dirk gets on his feet and makes a run for the car, Rahad FIRES . . .

. . . Dirk catches up with the car, hops in -- gets the key in the ignition
and starts it up, peels off down the street --

Here is the movie version of the scene:

What an incredible scene. The tension builds and builds and builds… then boom!

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: “Blue Velvet”

October 15th, 2014 by

A scene from the 1986 movie Blue Velvet, written by David Lynch.

IMDB Plot Summary: The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of criminals who have kidnapped her child.

In this scene, Frank (Dennis Hopper) having discovered Jeffrey (Kyle MacLachlan) spending time with Frank’s love interest Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini), takes Jeffrey on a “joyride” with some of Frank’s thugs, Dorothy and a character known as Greasy Girl.


               INT. FRANK'S CAR / DIRT ROAD - NIGHT

               Frank angrily swerves the car off onto a small dirt road 
               bouncing down it, screeching to a halt near an orchard of 
               trees. He turns violently around to Jeffrey.

                                     FRANK
                         What are you lookin' at?

                                     JEFFREY
                         Nothing.

                                     FRANK
                              (locks eyes with 
                              Jeffrey; long pause)
                         Don't look at me, Fuck. I shoot when 
                         I see the whites of the eyes.
                              (takes helium)
                         You like me?

               Jeffrey is quiet.

                                     FRANK
                              (still high voice)
                         Look at these. What are these?

                                     DOROTHY
                         Come on, Frank. Let's go. Please.

               Frank is doing something to Dorothy's chest but Jeffrey can't 
               see.

                                     FRANK
                         Don't say PLEASE, Fuckhead. WHAT ARE 
                         THESE?

                                     DOROTHY
                         Those are my breasts.

                                     FRANK
                         Can I feel 'em?

                                     DOROTHY
                         If you want to.

               Frank takes helium.

                                     FRANK
                         Baby wants to pinch 'em.

               She winces and tries to pull away.

                                     FRANK
                              (continuing)
                         What's the matter? Give 'em back. 
                         They're just a little red, that's 
                         all. Let me feel 'em again. Come 
                         here.

               Frank pulls her over and starts to pinch her again. It really 
               hurts her and she is frightened and in pain.

                                     JEFFREY
                         Hey. Leave her alone.

               Frank pretends not to hear Jeffrey and pinches Dorothy's 
               breasts real hard. She stifles a scream. Jeffrey gets mad. 
               He hits Frank hard in the face. Everyone is deadly silent as 
               Frank turns to Jeffrey. Frank stares at Jeffrey.

                                     FRANK
                         NEXT! Out of the car fuck. HELP HIM 
                         OUT, RAYMOND!!

               EXT. FRANK'S CAR / DIRT ROAD - NIGHT

               Frank gets out and presses his face against the rear window. 
               His distorted face is hideous. He opens the back door. Raymond 
               and Paul grab Jeffrey and pull him out of the car. The Greasy 
               Girl laughs nervously.

                                     DOROTHY
                         Frank, he didn't mean it. Leave him 
                         alone. Come on. He didn't mean it.

                                     FRANK
                         Shut up. Gimme your lipstick.
                              (takes gas)
                         Hey, pretty, pretty.

               Dorothy doesn't move fast enough so Frank dumps her whole 
               purse out on the front seat and grabs the lipstick and a 
               flashlight. He puts lipstick heavy onto his lips.

               While Raymond and Paul hold Jeffrey. Frank kisses Jeffrey 
               all over the mouth. Jeffrey tries to hit Frank and pull away, 
               but Raymond and Paul have a hold of him. Jeffrey looks very 
               strange with these big blotches of red lipstick on his face 
               and mouth.

                                     DOROTHY
                         LEAVE HIM ALONE!! FRANK!!

               Frank slams the front door shut to muffle Dorothy. He grabs 
               Jeffrey and presses his frightened face against the front 
               window. Then, the back window. Then, he flops Jeffrey up on 
               the hood with Paul's help and presses Jeffrey's face against 
               the rear window. Inside the car, this show is crazy and scary. 
               Then, Frank takes Jeffrey over to the side of the car again.

                                     FRANK
                              (to Jeffrey)
                         You're fuckin' lucky to be alive. 
                         LOOK AT ME!

               Raymond pulls Jeffrey's face back so he's looking at Frank. 
               Dorothy and the Greasy Girl watch in terror.

                                     FRANK
                         Don't be a good neighbor to her or 
                         I'm gonna send you a love letter. 
                         Straight from my heart, fucker. You 
                         know what a love letter is? It's a 
                         bullet, straight from my gun, fucker. 
                         Once you get a love letter from me, 
                         you're fucked forever. Understand, 
                         Fuck?

                                     JEFFREY
                         Yes.

                                     FRANK
                         I'll send you straight to hell, Fuck!

               Frank takes a small square of blue velvet out of his pocket 
               and begins feeling Jeffrey's face with it.

                                     FRANK
                              (continuing; breathing 
                              heavily)
                         You feel good. Feel my muscles.

               Raymond makes Jeffrey raise his arm and Jeffrey feels Frank's 
               biceps.

                                     FRANK
                              (continuing)
                         You like that?
                              (to Raymond and Paul)
                         Hold him tight for me.

               Suddenly Frank starts hitting Jeffrey in the face. Dorothy 
               screams at the car window.

                                                              CUT TO BLACK:

Here is the movie version of the scene:

The scene plays out pretty much as written with one major exception: The addition of the Roy Orbison song “In Dreams”. What is described in the script simply as this — “Frank takes a small square of blue velvet out of his pocket and begins feeling Jeffrey’s face with it” — has Frank echoing lines of dialogue from the song as it plays on the car tape player.

In dreams I walk with you. In dreams I talk to you.
In dreams you’re mine. All of the time we’re together
In dreams, In dreams.

It provides a level of homoeroticism that takes the scene from creepy… to really creepy. Combined with Greasy Girl shifting from the mood in the script — “watch in terror” — to her dancing on the car while Frank terrorizes Jeffrey, adding a darkly comic twist, what Lynch ends up with is a memorable scene.

Any Blue Velvet fans out there? The movie was released domestically on October 30, 1986, so it’s coming up on its 28th birthday. Arguably Lynch’s best movie, I think it’s about time for another screening.

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 Birds”

October 8th, 2014 by

A scene from the 1963 Alfred Hitchcock thriller The Birds, screenplay by Evan Hunter, short story by Daphne Du Maurier.

IMDB Plot Summary: A wealthy San Francisco socialite pursues a potential boyfriend to a small Northern California town that slowly takes a turn for the bizarre when birds of all kinds suddenly begin to attack people there in increasing numbers and with increasing viciousness.

This is one of the more memorable scenes in the movie: school children attempting to escape an onslaught of attacking birds.

               FULL SHOT - THE ROOM

               Through the windows, we can see the waiting crows. One moves 
               restlessly into flight, then settles on the equipment again.

                                     ANNIE
                         Quiet down, children! Quiet down!

               The children modulate into silence.

                                     ANNIE
                         Miss Daniels wants to see how we 
                         conduct ourselves during a fire drill. 
                         I'd like you to...

                                     CHILDREN
                              (grumbling in Unison)
                         A fire drill? This is our play period, 
                         Miss Hayworth! Gee whiz!  Etc.

                                     ANNIE
                         I'd like you to show her how quiet 
                         and obedient you can be.

               The children again fall silent.

                                     ANNIE
                         We're going to go out of the school 
                         now. Those of you who live nearby 
                         can go directly home. I want the 
                         rest of you to go down the hill, all 
                         the way to the hotel. Do you 
                         understand?

                                     CHILDREN
                         All the way down the hill? Gee, Miss 
                         Hayworth, we never... Home? Why do 
                         we...?

                                     ANNIE
                              (shushing them)
                         I want you to go as quietly as you 
                         can, not a sound, until I tell you 
                         to run. And then I want you to run 
                         as fast as you can. Does everyone 
                         understand?
                              (pause - silence)
                         All right. John, would you lead the 
                         class, please?

               The children walk two-by-two to the corridor door. John opens 
               it, and they begin filing out. Melanie turns to look at the 
               play yard.

               CLOSE SHOT - A SINGLE CROW

               fluttering at the window, almost in exploration. He hangs 
               there for a moment, then wings back to the playground 
               equipment.

               CLOSE SHOT - MELANIE

                                     MELANIE
                              (whispering)
                         Hurry!

               EXT. PLAY YARD - FULL SHOT (6)

               straight on of all the crows.

               NEARER SHOT - PLAY YARD (8)

               but a different angle.

               CLOSER SHOT - PLAY YARD (10)

               but a different angle from the others

               CLOSE SHOT - (12)

               A low angle of five or six crows filling the screen.

               EXT. PLAY YARD

               The screen is filled with crows. About fifty or more. All of 
               a sudden we HEAR the distant PATTERING of children's feet as 
               they start running. Immediately the crows rise and the CAMERA 
               PANS UP with them into the sky.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - LONG SHOT - (PLATE) (15)

               The FULL SHOT showing the children running toward the CAMERA - 
               Annie herding them at the rear. The crows - about two hundred - 
               rising over the schoolhouse roof and descending toward and 
               reaching the running children. Shot as a moving background 
               with six or seven children in front on a treadmill with the 
               mechanical birds coming into top of screen as though 
               continuing on from the plate. The birds swing around and 
               among the foreground children.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (4) (S)

               A side view of running children with Melanie in front urging 
               them forward. Birds fly between them, two or three others 
               wheel around, one live one sweeps by in foreground.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (3) (P)

               Three or four children running. Birds overhead - one or two 
               children spread out as others come in from sides and take 
               their places. Birds swerve in and out.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (2) (S)

               Profile of running child. Bird catches up and bites.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (3) (S)

               A nearer side on view without Melanie. Birds wheeling in and 
               out - others overhead.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (P)

               Bird on top of girl's head (showing feet and wings).

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (2) (S)

               A three-quarter back of two children running - lots of birds 
               overhead and others wheeling. Screen almost full of birds.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (P)

               One-half child's face - a bird's head and beak on left, 
               dashing round to the child.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - CLOSE UP (L)

               of feet running.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - HIGH MOVING SHOT (6) (L)

               showing the crows among the running children.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (P)

               Big head of girl - bird lands on her right shoulder - wing 
               over her face.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (P)

               One SCREAMING child as bird swoops from top left down to 
               lower right.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (2) (S)

               Head and shoulders of boy who ducks behind pole -- bird goes 
               by as another attacks him from right-hand side.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (FP)

               Back view of boy's head running. He looks back.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (½) (P)

               Big head of bird coming at CAMERA.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (FP)

               Back view of little girl running. She looks over her shoulder.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (½) (P)

               Big head of bird coming into CAMERA.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (3) (L)

               Straight back CLOSE SHOT of Annie dragging slow children. No 
               birds in back, but several wheeling around them.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - HIGH MOVING SHOT (6) (L)

               showing the crows chasing the children down the street - 
               with the Bay in the distance.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (3) (S)

               A bird dives to head of Michele and she falls OUT of picture.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - CLOSE UP (1) (L)

               of Michele as she hits ground.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - CLOSE UP (½) (L)

               Her glasses smash.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (2) (S)

               Flash Cathy - she sees and runs back. Birds swirling around.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (1) (S)

               Six birds descend on fallen Michele - legs running by.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (3) (S)

               Cathy RUSHES IN. She disperses birds and bends to pick up 
               Michele.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (2) (S)

               Melanie stops, looks back and sees Cathy and Michele, heads 
               of other children rushing by in foreground. Birds swirling.  
               Melanie dashes out left.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (3) (S)

               Melanie reaches Cathy and Michele -- Michele is now on her 
               feet. Birds swirling -- Melanie looks about -- sees.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (2) (L)

               Station wagon across the street. Birds swirling about and 
               children running by.

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD (5) (L)

               Melanie drags Cathy and Michele to the station wagon. We see 
               the Bay in the distance and children running on the bottom 
               of the street.

               INT. STATION WAGON - CLOSE SHOT (8) (S)

               Shooting inside the wagon across the front seat. The three 
               scramble in, Cathy first, then Michele and Melanie last --

               the door SLAMS on crows swooping around. Cathy and Michele 
               are SCREAMING with fright.

               INT. STATION WAGON - P.O.V. (3) (FP)

               Through the windshield we see crows attacking. Bay and running 
               children in distance.

               INT. STATION WAGON (3) (P)

               The faces of the three - Birds are fluttering on the rear 
               window.

               INT. STATION WAGON - MELANIE (3) (P)

               wheel in foreground. She starts to slam hand on horn ring.

               INT. STATION WAGON (2) (S)

               Crows attacking side window.

               INT. STATION WAGON (2) (S)

               Hand on horn ring.

               INT. STATION WAGON (2) (P)

               Cathy and Michele's faces huddled together.

               INT. STATION WAGON (2) (P)

               Melanie's big head - she looks down.

               INT. STATION WAGON - CLOSE UP (1) (P)

               Knob of wiper -- her hand comes in and pulls it out.

               INT. STATION WAGON (3) (FP)

               Wipers starting. Crows retreat.

               INT. STATION WAGON (2) (P)

               The three faces staring out.

               INT. STATION WAGON - P.O.V. (3) (P)

               through windshield. The crows are starting to go away.

               INT. STATION WAGON (2) (P)

               Melanie looks out and sees:

               EXT. SCHOOL ROAD - P.O.V. (6) (FP)

               through windshield. Annie running back with stick. She beats 
               the last of the crows away.

               INT. STATION WAGON (6) (S)

               Melanie flops in exhaustion over the wheel as Annie comes 
               round to the side window and starts to open the door.

Now the movie version of the scene:

There are a few key differences between script and screen — most notably Melanie (Tippi Hedren) doesn’t turn on the windshield wipers because in the movie, she doesn’t have car keys — but for the most part, the script is a shot-by-shot blueprint for the movie. This is not surprising because that is how Hitchcock operated. Here is an excerpt from an interview with screenwriter Ernest Lehman who wrote North By Northwest:

Hitch and I acted out the entire crop-dusting sequence in his living room. Then I incorporated every move into the script, and that was the way he shot it.

Storyboarding is really an illustrator’s work for the director. A motion picture illustrator puts pictures on paper and puts them on boards. In story-boarding a script for a Hitchcock film, the illustrator is told what pictures to put on the boards by the script, which has benefited from my conferences with the director. Of course, I participate in what is going to appear on that storyboard, because even without the storyboard the script describes exactly what is going to be on the screen. Hitch would have it no other way. The script even describes the size of the shot, whether it’s a medium or a tight close-up, whether the camera pulls back and pans to the right as the character walks toward the door, whether it tilts slightly down and shoots through the open doorway, getting the helicopter as the lights go on outside. That’s why Hitch says it’s a bore for him to get the picture on the screen, because it has all been done already in his office [emphasis added].

What can contemporary screenwriters take away from this script to screen post? Here are a few things.

* The scene reminds us that movies are primarily a visual medium. Just look at those pages, one image after another in quick succession.

* The screenplay, over 50 years old, represents a style whereby the script was a blueprint to produce a movie, even down to individual camera shots. Screenplay style has moved away from directing jargon and production lingo, evolving into a more literary feel.

* While it is uncommon to use camera shots in contemporary scripts, we can indicate them through the use of individual paragraphs. For example, let’s take the action inside the car and strip away the camera direction:

               INT. STATION WAGON 

               The faces of the three - Birds are fluttering on the rear 
               window.

               Melanie starts to slam hand on horn ring.

               Crows attacking side window.

               Hand on horn ring.

               Cathy and Michele's faces huddled together.

               Melanie's big head - she looks down.

               Knob of wiper -- her hand comes in and pulls it out.

               Wipers starting. Crows retreat.

               The three faces staring out. Through windshield -- 

               The crows are starting to go away.

Notice how each line suggest a camera shot without use camera lingo? This style allows writers to ‘direct’ the action in a more literary fashion than the production blueprint approach of yesteryear.

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.