Great Scene: “Casablanca”

September 21st, 2016 by

NOTE: This is the very first post in the Great Scene series from all the way back to August 2008.

When you think about it, screenwriting is really aboutscene-writing. If a typical script is 120 pages and the average scene is 2 pages, then that means we write about 60 scenes per screenplay. Clearly, a writer needs to understand how to craft effective, engaging scenes in order to write a good script.

I thought it would be appropriate to begin our Great Scene Series with one of the most memorable moments in cinematic history: the last sequence from the 1941 Warner Bros. classic Casablanca, from the screenplay credited to Julius & Philip Epstein and Howard Koch.

            
               EXT. AIRPORT - NIGHT

               The entire airport is surrounded by a heavy fog. The outline 
               of the transport plane is barely visible.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               INT./EXT. AIRPORT HANGAR - NIGHT

               A uniformed ORDERLY uses a telephone near the hangar door.

               On the airfield a transport plane is being readied.

                                     ORDERLY
                         Hello. Hello, radio tower? Lisbon 
                         plane taking off in ten minutes. 
                         East runway. Visibility: one and one 
                         half miles. Light ground fog. Depth 
                         of fog: approximately 500. Ceiling: 
                         unlimited. Thank you.

               He hangs up and moves to a car that has just pulled up outside 
               the hangar.

               Renault gets out while the orderly stands at attention.

               He's closely followed by Rick, right hand in the pocket of 
               his trench coat, covering Renault with a gun.

               Laszlo and Ilsa emerge from the rear of the car.

                                     RICK
                              (indicating the orderly)
                         Louis, have your man go with Mr.

               Laszlo and take care of his luggage.

                                     RENAULT
                              (bowing ironically)
                         Certainly Rick, anything you say.
                              (to orderly)
                         Find Mr. Laszlo's luggage and put it 
                         it on the plane.

                                     ORDERLY
                         Yes, sir. This way please.

               The orderly escorts Laszlo off in the direction of the plane.

               Rick takes the letters of transit out of his pocket and hands 
               them to Renault, who turns and walks toward the hangar.

                                     RICK
                         If you don't mind, you fill in the 
                         names. That will make it even more 
                         official.

                                     RENAULT
                         You think of everything, don't you?

                                     RICK
                              (quietly)
                         And the names are Mr. and Mrs. Victor 
                         Laszlo.

               Renault stops dead in his tracks, and turns around. Both 
               Ilsa and Renault look at Rick with astonishment.

                                     ILSA
                         But why my name, Richard?

                                     RICK
                         Because you're getting on that plane.

                                     ILSA
                              (confused)
                         I don't understand. What about you?

                                     RICK
                         I'm staying here with him 'til the 
                         plane gets safely away.

               Rick's intention suddenly dawns on Ilsa.

                                     ILSA
                         No, Richard, no. What has happened 
                         to you? Last night we said --

                                     RICK
                         -- Last night we said a great many 
                         things. You said I was to do the 
                         thinking for both of us. Well, I've 
                         done a lot of it since then and it 
                         all adds up to one thing. You're 
                         getting on that plane with Victor 
                         where you belong.

                                     ILSA
                              (protesting)
                         But Richard, no, I, I --

                                     RICK
                         -- You've got to listen to me. Do 
                         you have any idea what you'd have to 
                         look forward to if you stayed here? 
                         Nine chances out of ten we'd both 
                         wind up in a concentration camp. 
                         Isn't that true, Louis?

               Renault countersigns the papers.

                                     RENAULT
                         I'm afraid Major Strasser would 
                         insist.

                                     ILSA
                         You're saying this only to make me 
                         go.

                                     RICK
                         I'm saying it because it's true. 
                         Inside of us we both know you belong 
                         with Victor. You're part of his work, 
                         the thing that keeps him going. If 
                         that plane leaves the ground and 
                         you're not with him, you'll regret 
                         it.

                                     ILSA
                         No.

                                     RICK
                         Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, 
                         but soon, and for the rest of your 
                         life.

                                     ILSA
                         But what about us?

                                     RICK
                         We'll always have Paris. We didn't 
                         have, we'd lost it, until you came 
                         to Casablanca. We got it back last 
                         night.

                                     ILSA
                         And I said I would never leave you.

                                     RICK
                         And you never will. But I've got a 
                         job to do, too. Where I'm going you 
                         can't follow. What I've got to do 
                         you can't be any part of. Ilsa, I'm 
                         no good at being noble, but it doesn't 
                         take much to see that the problems 
                         of three little people don't amount 
                         to a hill of beans in this crazy 
                         world. Someday you'll understand 
                         that. Now, now...

               Ilsa's eyes well up with tears. Rick puts his hand to her 
               chin and raises her face to meet his own.

                                     RICK
                         Here's looking at you, kid.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               EXT. ROAD - NIGHT

               Major Strasser drives at break-neck speed towards the airport.

               He HONKS his horn furiously.

                                                                    CUT TO:

               INT./EXT. AIRPORT HANGAR - NIGHT

               Laszlo returns. Rick walks into the hangar and Renault hands 
               him the letters. He walks back out to Laszlo.

                                     LASZLO
                         Everything in order?

                                     RICK
                         All except one thing. There's 
                         something you should know before you 
                         leave.

                                     LASZLO
                              (sensing what is coming)
                         Monsieur Blaine, I don't ask you to 
                         explain anything.

                                     RICK
                         I'm going to anyway, because it may 
                         make a difference to you later on. 
                         You said you knew about Ilsa and me.

                                     LASZLO
                         Yes.

                                     RICK
                         But you didn't know she was at my 
                         place last night when you were. She 
                         came there for the letters of transit. 
                         Isn't that true, Ilsa?

                                     ILSA
                              (facing Laszlo)
                         Yes.

                                     RICK
                              (forcefully)
                         She tried everything to get them, 
                         and nothing worked. She did her best 
                         to convince me that she was still in 
                         love with me, but that was all over 
                         long ago. For your sake, she pretended 
                         it wasn't, and I let her pretend.

                                     LASZLO
                         I understand.

                                     RICK
                         Here it is.

               Rick hands the letters to Laszlo.

                                     LASZLO
                         Thanks. I appreciate it.

               Laszlo extends his hand to Rick, who grasps it firmly.

                                     LASZLO
                         And welcome back to the fight. This 
                         time I know our side will win.

               On the airfield the airplane engine TURNS OVER and the 
               propellers start turning. They all turn to see the plane 
               readying for take-off.

               Ilsa looks at Rick and he returns her stare with a blank 
               expression. He then glances at Laszlo, as does Ilsa.

               Then Laszlo breaks the silence.

                                     LASZLO
                         Are you ready Ilsa?

                                     ILSA
                         Yes, I'm ready.
                              (to Rick)
                         Goodbye, Rick. God bless you.

                                     RICK
                         You better hurry, or you'll miss 
                         that plane.

               Rick watches as Ilsa and Laszlo walk very deliberately towards 
               the plane.

                                     RENAULT
                         Well I was right. You are a 
                         sentimentalist.

                                     RICK
                         Stay where you are. I don't know 
                         what you're talking about.

               Rick puts a cigarette in his mouth.

                                     RENAULT
                         What you just did for Laszlo, and 
                         that fairy tale that you invented to 
                         send Ilsa away with him. I know a 
                         little about women, my friend. She 
                         went, but she knew you were lying.

                                     RICK
                         Anyway, thanks for helping me out.

                                     RENAULT
                         I suppose you know this isn't going 
                         to be pleasant for either of us, 
                         especially for you. I'll have to 
                         arrest you of course.

                                     RICK
                         As soon as the plane goes, Louis.

               The door to the plane is closed by an attendant and it slowly 
               taxies down the field.

               Suddenly a speeding car comes to a stop outside the hangar.

               Strasser alights from the car and runs toward Renault.

                                     STRASSER
                         What is the meaning of that phone 
                         call?

                                     RENAULT
                         Victor Laszlo is on that plane.

               Renault nods toward the field. Strasser turns to see the 
               plane taxiing towards the runway.

                                     STRASSER
                         Why do you stand here? Why don't you 
                         stop him?

                                     RENAULT
                         Ask Monsieur Rick.

               Strasser looks briefly at Rick, then makes a step towards 
               the telephone just inside the hangar door.

                                     RICK
                         Get away from that phone.

               Strasser stops in his tracks, looks at Rick, and sees that 
               he is armed.

                                     STRASSER
                              (steely)
                         I would advise you not to interfere.

                                     RICK
                         I was willing to shoot Captain 
                         Renault, and I'm willing to shoot 
                         you.

               Strasser watches the plane in agony. His eyes dart towards 
               the telephone. He runs toward it and desperately grabs the 
               receiver.

                                     STRASSER
                         Hello?

                                     RICK
                         Put that phone down!

                                     STRASSER
                         Get me the Radio Tower!

                                     RICK
                         Put it down!

               Strasser, one hand holding the receiver, pulls out a pistol 
               with the other hand, and SHOOTS quickly at Rick. The bullet 
               misses its mark.

               Rick now SHOOTS at Strasser, who crumples to the ground.

               At the sound of an approaching car both men turn. A police 
               car SPEEDS in and comes to a stop near Renault. Four gendarmes 
               hurriedly jump out.

               In the distance the plane turns onto the runway.

               The gendarmes run to Renault. The first one hurriedly salutes 
               him.

                                     GENDARME
                         Mon Capitaine!

                                     RENAULT
                         Major Strasser's been shot.

               Renault pauses and looks at Rick. Rick returns Renault's 
               gaze with expressionless eyes.

                                     RENAULT
                         Round up the usual suspects.

                                     GENDARME
                         Oui, mon Capitaine.

               The gendarmes take Strasser's body away and then drive off.

               Renault walks inside the hangar, picks up a bottle of Vichy 
               water, and opens it.

                                     RENAULT
                         Well, Rick, you're not only a 
                         sentimentalist, but you've become a 
                         patriot.

                                     RICK
                         Maybe, but it seemed like a good 
                         time to start.

                                     RENAULT
                         I think perhaps you're right.

               As he pours the water into a glass, Renault sees the Vichy 
               label and quickly DROPS the bottle into a trash basket which 
               he then KICKS over.

               He walks over and stands beside Rick. They both watch the 
               plane take off, maintaining their gaze until it disappears 
               into the clouds.

               Rick and Louis slowly walk away from the hangar toward the 
               runway.

                                     RENAULT
                         It might be a good idea for you to 
                         disappear from Casablanca for a while. 
                         There's a Free French garrison over 
                         at Brazzaville. I could be induced 
                         to arrange a passage.

                                     RICK
                         My letter of transit? I could use a 
                         trip. But it doesn't make any 
                         difference about our bet. You still 
                         owe me ten thousand francs.

                                     RENAULT
                         And that ten thousand francs should 
                         pay our expenses.

                                     RICK
                         Our expenses?

                                     RENAULT
                         Uh huh.

                                     RICK
                         Louis, I think this is the beginning 
                         of a beautiful friendship.

               The two walk off together into the night.

                                                                  FADE OUT:

                                         THE END

Here is the scene from the movie in two parts:


Classic stuff.

Conscious Goal and Unconscious Goal

May 6th, 2016 by

An interesting discussion arose from this post the other day on the question how to raise the stakes in a plot. I suggested one way was to track a shift that often happens with a Protagonist — from Want to Need — and one of the movie examples I cited in my analysis was Casablanca.

matthewkane noted this in comments:

This is a reason for the romcom trope of one or both of the romantic leads to have no interest in romance until the midpoint. When romance complicates the original goal, it ups the stakes. Though it’s usually good to add another complication at the same time to stretch the rack tighter from both directions.

My response:

Matthew, your point illustrates why I oftentimes think of character work this way: Want and Need can refer to the generalized state of what a Protagonist brings into the story at its beginning. By the end of Act One, they have may have crystallized things into a Conscious Goal, a specific target they have in mind, and an Unstated or Unconscious Goal, a specific psychological end point that emerges from their inner world.

So for example, Rick in Casablanca:

The Want he brings into the story is to be left alone to run his business so he can busy himself with avoiding dealing with the pain of the past (associated with his loss of Ilsa).

Since that way of being has led him to isolationism, the Need he brings into the story is to break out of his cynicism.

In Act One: Enter Ilsa, Victor Laszlo, and the letters of transit. How does this sharpen his Want and Need?

Conscious Goal: Determine what to do with letters of transit.

Unconscious Goal: Confront pain of the past [when Ilsa rejected him] and resolve that relationship.

In dealing with those new narrative elements — letters of transit, Ilsa, Victor — Rick goes on his own psychological journey resulting in the classic ending we all know and love.

I also should note, per the language of Michael Arndt (screenwriter of Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3) who says a great ending must answer a philosophical question, Rick confronts an existential choice: Cynicism or Idealism? He opts for the latter, choosing to ‘sacrifice’ his love for Ilsa for the greater good, represented by Victor’s work as a freedom fighter.

Per your observation about romcoms having “no interest in romance until the midpoint,” it’s interesting to note that the Paris flashback sequence doesn’t happen in Casablanca until the middle of the movie (in a commonly available 127 page version of the script, the sequence ends at P. 61). That flashback represents the very first time we’ve seen what the romance between Rick and Ilsa had been, and understand how and why Rick has been so badly hurt on an emotional level when it ended. So even though not a romcom, your point is relevant to Casablanca.

The usual caveats: This is all psychological language which is in a way ‘artificial’ when applied to a story, organic by its very nature. Some writers may benefit from using these tools — Want, Need, Conscious Goal, Unconscious Goal — others may not. Our goal is to create living, breathing characters in a living, breathing story universe. We do what we can do to get there.

But in my teaching, often I find writers benefit from honing in on a Protagonist’s Conscious Goal and Unconscious Goal at the end of Act One as it sharpens their understanding of their story’s structure and the nature of the Protagonist’s metamorphosis.

[Originally posted August 16, 2013]

Daily Dialogue — December 31, 2015

December 31st, 2015 by

Sam: Boss, ain’t you going to bed?
Rick: Not right now.
Sam: Ain’t you planning on going to bed in the near future?
Rick: No.
Sam: You ever going to bed?
Rick: No!
Sam: Well, I ain’t sleepy either.
Rick: Good, have a drink.
Sam: No, not me–
Rick: Then don’t have a drink.
Sam: Boss, let’s get outta here.
Rick: No. I’m waiting for a lady.
Sam: Please, boss, let’s go. There ain’t nothin’ but trouble for you here.
Rick: She’s coming back, I know she’s coming back.
Sam: We’ll take the car and go drivin’ all night. We’ll get drunk. We’ll go fishin’ until she’s–
Rick: Go home, will ya’?
Sam: No, sir. I’m stayin’ right here.

Sam starts to play piano.

Rick: They grab Ugarte, then she walks in. That’s the way it goes. One in, one out. Sam.
Sam: Yes, boss.
Rick: It’s December 1941 in Casablanca. What time is it in New York?
Sam: My watch stopped.
Rick: I’ll be they’re asleep in New York. I’ll bet they’re asleep all over America. [pounds fist on table] Of all the gin joints and all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.

Rick turns to Sam.

Rick: What’s that you’re playing?
Sam: Oh, just a little somethin’ on my own.
Rick: Well, stop it, you know what I want to hear.
Sam: No, I don’t.
Rick: You played it for her, you can play it for me.
Sam: I don’t think I can remember–
Rick: If she can stand it, I can. Play it.
Sam: Yes, boss.

Sam reluctantly begins to play “As Time Goes By”.

Casablanca (1942), screenplay by Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch, play by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison

The Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Drunk. Today’s suggestion by Katha.

Trivia: When Julius J. Epstein and Philip G. Epstein won an Oscar for their script, they became the first (and only) Academy Award winning twins.

Dialogue on Dialogue: Alcohol is technically a depressant, so a perfect match for Rick’s mood once Ilsa suddenly reenters his life. In this scene, we get a chance to peer into the pain at the core of Rick’s psyche and artfully transition into one of the most famous flashbacks in cinema history: Rick and Ilsa’s time together in Paris.

Movie Analysis: “Casablanca”

October 3rd, 2015 by

This week, we analyzed the movie Casablanca, written by screenplay by Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

IMDb plot summary: Set in Casablanca, Morocco during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

General Comments
Plot
Characters
Themes
Takeaways

Years ago, I came up with this mantra: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages.

A link to my reflections on that here.

Cannot emphasize enough the importance of watching and analyzing movies.

To access all of the movies we have analyzed in this series, go here.

Movie Analysis: “Casablanca” – Takeaways

October 2nd, 2015 by

Another in our bi-weekly series in which we analyze movies currently in release. Why? To quote the writing mantra I coined over 5 years ago: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. You will note which one comes first. Here are my reflections from that post about the importance of watching movies:

To be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Let me add this: It’s important to see movies as they get released so that you stay on top of the business. Decisions get made in Hollywood in large part depending upon how movies perform, so watching movies as they come out puts you in the same head space as reps, producers, execs, and buyers.

This week’s movie: Casablanca, screenplay by Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

IMDb plot summary: Set in Casablanca, Morocco during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Our schedule for discussion this week:

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

For those of you who have not seen the movie, do not click MORE as we will be trafficking in major spoilers. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Casablanca, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it! If you have seen Casablanca, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the movie.

(more…)

Movie Analysis: “Casablanca” – Themes

October 1st, 2015 by

Another in our bi-weekly series in which we analyze movies currently in release. Why? To quote the writing mantra I coined over 5 years ago: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. You will note which one comes first. Here are my reflections from that post about the importance of watching movies:

To be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Let me add this: It’s important to see movies as they get released so that you stay on top of the business. Decisions get made in Hollywood in large part depending upon how movies perform, so watching movies as they come out puts you in the same head space as reps, producers, execs, and buyers.

This week’s movie: Casablanca, screenplay by Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

IMDb plot summary: Set in Casablanca, Morocco during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.

Our schedule for discussion this week:

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

For those of you who have not seen the movie, do not click MORE as we will be trafficking in major spoilers. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Casablanca, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it! If you have seen Casablanca, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the movie.

(more…)

Movie Analysis: “Casablanca” – Characters

September 30th, 2015 by

Another in our bi-weekly series in which we analyze movies currently in release. Why? To quote the writing mantra I coined over 5 years ago: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. You will note which one comes first. Here are my reflections from that post about the importance of watching movies:

To be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Let me add this: It’s important to see movies as they get released so that you stay on top of the business. Decisions get made in Hollywood in large part depending upon how movies perform, so watching movies as they come out puts you in the same head space as reps, producers, execs, and buyers.

This week’s movie: Casablanca, screenplay by Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

Our schedule for discussion this week:

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

For those of you who have not seen the movie, do not click MORE as we will be trafficking in major spoilers. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Casablanca, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it! If you have seen Casablanca, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the movie.

(more…)

Movie Analysis: “Casablanca” – Plot

September 29th, 2015 by

Another in our bi-weekly series in which we analyze movies currently in release. Why? To quote the writing mantra I coined over 5 years ago: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. You will note which one comes first. Here are my reflections from that post about the importance of watching movies:

To be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Let me add this: It’s important to see movies as they get released so that you stay on top of the business. Decisions get made in Hollywood in large part depending upon how movies perform, so watching movies as they come out puts you in the same head space as reps, producers, execs, and buyers.

This week’s movie: Casablanca, screenplay by Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

Our schedule for discussion this week:

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

For those of you who have not seen the movie, do not click MORE as we will be trafficking in major spoilers. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Casablanca, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it! If you have seen Casablanca, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the movie.

(more…)

Movie Analysis: “Casablanca”

September 28th, 2015 by

Another in our bi-weekly series in which we analyze movies currently in release. Why? To quote the writing mantra I coined over 5 years ago: Watch movies. Read scripts. Write pages. You will note which one comes first. Here are my reflections from that post about the importance of watching movies:

To be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Let me add this: It’s important to see movies as they get released so that you stay on top of the business. Decisions get made in Hollywood in large part depending upon how movies perform, so watching movies as they come out puts you in the same head space as reps, producers, execs, and buyers.

This week’s movie: Casablanca, screenplay by Julius J. Epstein & Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch.

Yes, a classic movie. Indeed, perhaps the classic movie, voted the #1 screenplay by WGA members.

Our schedule for discussion this week:

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

For those of you who have not seen the movie, do not click MORE as we will be trafficking in major spoilers. But seriously, if you haven’t seen Casablanca, stop whatever you’re doing and watch it! If you have seen Casablanca, I invite you to join me in breaking down and analyzing the movie.

(more…)

Go Into The Story Movie Analysis: “Casablanca”

September 25th, 2015 by

Starting Monday, I thought we’d try something different with our bi-weekly Go Into The Story Movie Analysis series: Dig into and analyze a classic movie. Since September is Classic 40s Movies month here at the blog, I figured why not review the 1941 movie Casablanca.

What a great excuse to watch this movie again, which you can do here for as little as $2.99. But I’ll bet you own a DVD like I do. And if for some reason have not seen Casablanca… well, correct that problem by watching it this weekend.

Monday: General Comments
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Takeaways

Why watch movies?

Because to be a good screenwriter, you need to have a broad exposure to the world of film. Every movie you see is a potential reference point for your writing, everything from story concepts you generate to characters you develop to scenes you construct. Moreover people who work in the movie business constantly reference existing movies when discussing stories you write; it’s a shorthand way of getting across what they mean or envision.

But most importantly, you need to watch movies in order to ‘get’ how movie stories work. If you immerse yourself in the world of film, it’s like a Gestalt experience where you begin to grasp intuitively scene composition, story structure, character functions, dialogue and subtext, transitions and pacing, and so on.

Movies must be in your lifeblood – and the best way to do that is to watch and analyze them.

This series is your Call To Adventure! Do yourself a favor: Watch Casablanca and join the discussion beginning Monday, September 28.

If you find interviews and/or analysis of the movie, please post in comments.

For an excellent Casablanca fan website, go here.

To access all of the movies we have analyzed in this series, go here.

Finally let me know what you think about this for a monthly schedule for this series: One movie currently in theaters, one movie from the past.