Daily Dialogue — October 30, 2014

October 30th, 2014 by

“LOOK UPON ME! I’LL SHOW YOU THE LIFE OF THE MIND!”

Barton Fink (1991), written by Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Madness.

Trivia: Written by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen after a trip to see Baby Boom (1987) while suffering writer’s block writing Miller’s Crossing (1990).

Dialogue On Dialogue: Barton goes through a slow descent into a metaphorical madness, but Charlie Meadows is madness personified. What better backdrop to explore madness than Hollywood where insanity seems to be the basis of the studios’ business practices.

Scene-By-Scene Script Breakdown Challenge

October 29th, 2014 by

The GITS community never ceases to amaze me. On October 16th, I put out this challenge:

Here’s what I’m thinking: We have 4 weeks in November. What if we choose one script per week from here, the free and legal screenplays we host on the site. I’m looking for one volunteer per week to do a Scene-By-Scene Breakdown for one of those scripts. Then over the course of the week, we would analyze the script’s structure. It might go something like this:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown.

Volunteer posts their breakdown which we discuss.

Tuesday: Major plot points.

We go through the breakdown and identify key plot points, then discuss their importance.

Wednesday: Sequences.

We identify the groupings of scenes that feel like sequences.

Those are all about what transpires in the Physical Journey. Next we could take up this:

Thursday: Psychological Journey (Metamorphosis).

Here we would explore how various characters, most especially Protagonists, go through some sort of transformation.

Friday: Revelations.

Basically what did we learn through this process.

Anybody interested in this? You should be. If you’re not reading movie scripts on a regular basis, you’re not really taking this whole enterprise seriously enough. You need to read.

I’ll sweeten the pot for those hearty souls who would take up the challenge to compile an actual Scene-By-Scene Breakdown: You can take one of my Core or Craft one-week online classes for free.

I was hoping for four respondents. We ended up with this:

American Hustle: Jon
Argo: NB
Flight: 14Shari
Frankenwenie: Will King
Gravity: mattd_85
Hanna: John Arends
Lincoln: pgronk
Looper: erikledrew
Moonrise Kingdom: iamdaniel
Mud: Alejandro
Paranorman: OhScotty
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Social Network: N D
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Wadjda: iamdaniel

I’m wondering if this is something we can just keep on doing, maybe for an entire year? How great would it be to end up with 52 scene-by-scene breakdowns with extensive analysis, all of them posted in the site’s archives? That would be an excellent resource for screenwriters.

We begin next Monday with Argo. Anybody else care to sign up for another script from those we host on this site? Please let me know in comments.

Beyond that, I’d love to see folks participate in our daily analysis of these scripts.

If we do this right, the series could be a tremendous learning opportunity.

Thanks in advance. Let’s do this!

UPDATE: Now up to 12 volunteers. That’s nearly 3 months worth of script analysis. Plus we should be getting some 2014 scripts available here in the next few weeks as the studios roll out their For Your Consideration sites. I have a feeling this series is going to be a tremendous learning exprience for all involved. Thanks to the volunteers!

UPDATE #2: We’ve got 15 volunteers! Great job, everyone!

Spec Script Sale: “Midnight”

October 29th, 2014 by

Radar Pictures acquires horror thriller spec script “Midnight” written by Travis Baker and Richard Tanne. From Deadline:

The horror-thriller described as “I Know What You Did Last Summer meets Prisoners” centers on a small-town mayor’s daughter who goes missing and the detectives, family and friends who discover she’s just the latest in the town’s dark history of mystery and murder.

Baker and Tanne are repped by WME and Dobre Films.

By my count, there have been 52 spec script sales in 2014.

There were 83 spec script sales year-to-date in 2013.

Video: Jill Soloway Keynote Address | 2014 Film Independent Forum

October 29th, 2014 by

Screenwriter-director Jill Soloway delivers the Filmmaker Keynote Address at the 2014 Filmmaker Forum.

Via Indiewire.

Movie Trailer: “Avengers: Age of Ultron”

October 29th, 2014 by

Written by Joss Whedon, comic book by Stan Lee & Jack Kirby

When Tony Stark tries to jumpstart a dormant peacekeeping program, things go awry and it is up to The Avengers to stop the villainous Ultron from enacting his terrible plans.

IMDB

Release Date: 1 May 2015 (USA)

Great Scene: “The Matrix”

October 29th, 2014 by

October is Great Scene month at Go Into The Story whereby we put a spotlight on notable movie scenes, then analyze and discuss them. Their structure, themes, character dynamics. Why do they work? What are their narrative elements that elevate them to greatness? Let’s face it: In a fundamental way, screenwriting is scene-writing, so the more we learn about this aspect of the craft, the better.

Today: The 1999 movie The Matrix, written by the Wachowski Brothers. IMDB plot summary:

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

Neo (Keanu Reeves) meets Orpheus (Laurence Fishburne) for the first time.

Blue pill. Wake up in bed. Back to normal. Red pill. “You stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” It’s become such an iconic scene, there’s this:

To read all of the entries in the Great Scene archive, go here.

If you have an idea for this Great Scene series, check out the responses people have made so far here. If you have a different scene in mind you think would be worthy of analysis, please post it there or in comments for this post. Thanks!

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.

Daily Dialogue — October 29, 2014

October 29th, 2014 by

“But, man, you’re never gonna get any truth from us. We’ll tell you anything you want to hear. We lie like hell. We’ll tell you that, uh, Kojak always gets the killer, and that nobody ever gets cancer at Archie Bunker’s house, and no matter how much trouble the hero is in, don’t worry, just look at your watch; at the end of the hour he’s going to win. We’ll tell you any shit you want to hear. We deal in illusions, man! None of it is true! But you people sit there, day after day, night after night, all ages, colors, creeds… We’re all you know. You’re beginning to believe the illusions we’re spinning here. You’re beginning to think that the tube is reality, and that your own lives are unreal. You do whatever the tube tells you! You dress like a tube, you eat like a tube, you raise your children like a tube, you even think like a tube! This is mass madness, you maniacs! In God’s name, you people are the real thing! WE are the illusion! So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I’m speaking to you now! TURN THEM OFF…”

Network (1977), written by Paddy Chayefsky

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Madness. Today’s suggestion by Will King.

Trivia: Sidney Lumet recalled that Paddy Chayefsky was usually on the set overseeing his direction, and would give him advice on how certain scenes should be played. Lumet claims that Chayefsky had better comedic instinct than him, but when it came time to shoot the scene between Max and Louise, Lumet told Chayefsky, “Paddy, please, I know more about divorce than you”.

Dialogue On Dialogue: Commentary by Will: “The beauty of this film is that it’s a study in madness, but the character of Howard Beale, the supposedly insane former newscaster, is really the only sane person in the story.”

“Character drives TV”

October 28th, 2014 by

A guest post from screenwriter Tom Benedek (Cocoon), co-founder of Screenwriting Master Class:

“Character drives plot.” We say it over and over again in every film script workshop we do.

Same goes in TV writing, naturally. Plot, story are crucial in television, too. But it is all about that family of characters.

Example: I keep watching Homeland for the characters. It is easy to argue that the stories have gotten weird AND over-familiar –  but I still enjoy the characters. So I keep watching – anticipate potential shifts in key character relationships as those familiar thriller CIA/terrorist plot tropes unfold.

Job #1 in TV series creation is an engaging family of characters with personal stories, built-in emotional conflicts which can be mined, explored, pushed into new territory incrementally.

Concept, the world of the show is just as important. BUT any world may do if the characters are great, if their attitudes to plot elements are full of life and human truth. That familiar world becomes fresh through the lives of dynamic, engaging characters.

Home screens get larger. More movie talent moves into TV. More channels seek better shows. Feature film evolves – influenced by the impact of the medium.

So — understanding TV, how script structure, plot, character differs from features is valuable. If you are interested in writing a pilot, please consider my upcoming class TV: WRITING THE ORIGINAL PILOT SCRIPT one week class starting Monday, November 3.

Writing an original TV pilot is a great thing to do right now. It is fun. It is challenging. It is a great creative  endeavor, writer marketing tool, means to representation and jobs. Manager, agents, producers like to read 30 page or 60 page scripts. Spec pilots sell. They get made into shows. They lead to jobs – in TV and in features.

Please do join me for this fun and exciting class.

For more information on this exciting class, go here.

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life”

October 28th, 2014 by

The wisdom of Joseph Campbell pertains not only to our own life-journey, but to that of the Protagonists we write in our stories. Here is an example:

JCampbell01.0 ABYSS

From a psychological, even spiritual standpoint, each of us has work to do, a never-ending interplay between the exploration of our inner world and the unfolding of insights we translate into our beliefs and behaviors in the outer world. Carl Jung called this lifelong process individuation, where a person digs into their Self to gain awareness and understanding of all aspects of their Psyche, the totality of their psychological being. As part of that process, Campbell calls out to us to confront those parts of our psyche which scare us the most, our Shadow, go down into that ‘abyss’. For it is there, we will truly “recover the treasures of life”.

This framework functions beautifully for the Protagonist journey. It implies a starting point where the Protagonist is not in a state of unity, they are in some sense disconnected from their treasure. That treasure is likely symbolized as a conscious goal — a job, task, relationship — something they want to achieve in the external world. There is also a related unstated or unconscious goal in their inner world, a need to emerges along the way of the journey. That need is almost always tied to this ‘treasure’ that exists within.

The thing about this ‘treasure’ is it has always been there. Whether we call it Core Essence, True Self, or Authentic Nature, it has been lying fallow. This is why Campbell asserts that the hero begins the story needing to change. Indeed from a psychological standpoint, the entire point of a story is for the Protagonist to become aware of the treasure, embrace and use it to accomplish their goals and move toward a state of unity.

Hence Campbell’s word choice: Recover. Get something back.

Just as Glinda tells Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz, “You’ve always had the power to go back to Kansas” and that she needed to go through the trials and tribulations she did in Oz because “she had to learn it for herself,” so too most Protagonists in their own journeys. Whether it’s Michael Dorsey learning to be a better man by experiencing life as a woman in Tootsie, C.C. Baxter embracing his inner ‘mensch’ in The Apartment, Katniss Everdeen emerging as both warrior and leader in The Hunger Games, and so many other Protagonist examples, we see this dynamic play out again and again in stories.

Oftentimes the key is for the Protagonist to down into their abyss. Hannibal Lecter knew this about Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs, that until she managed to overcome her deep, dark anxieties about her associations of her father’s death with the spring slaughter of the lambs on her uncle’s Montana farm, she would never be free. By confessing that terrible memory to Lecter, Clarice prepared herself to descend into an actual abyss — a serial killer’s basement — and face the physicalization of the Boogeyman who killed her father: Buffalo Bill. Her treasure? Saving Catherine Martin and a measure of personal redemption.

Silence 7 Basement

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.” If ever there was an apt expression of the arc of the Protagonist’s psychological journey, it is this.

About the graphic above: Huge props to Trish Curtin, a delightful person and wonderful writer from Australia. She has created several of these images set to Campbell quotes which I will be sharing over the next few weeks. The images are public domain, so feel free to distribute and spread the inspiration.

Many thanks, Trish!