Great Character: Dr. Peter Venkman (“Ghostbusters”)

November 21st, 2014 by

The Great Character theme for the month: Bill Murray. Today: Dr. Peter Venkman from Ghostbusters, written by Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis.

On Friday June 8th 1984, North American movie theaters exploded with one of the most colossal summer blockbuster opening day face-offs of the decade: the release of both Gremlins and Ghostbusters. On one side you had the muppets from hell, Gremlins, a horror comedy. Then as it’s direct competition was Ghostbusters, staring Saturday Night Live alumni in a science fiction/fantasy comedy about poltergeist exterminators. The final tally of that opening weekend showdown was fairly close. The Steven Spielberg-produced Gremlins grabbed $12,511,634, while Ghostbusters from director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Twins) and screenwriter Harold Ramis (Animal House, Caddyshack) collected $13,578,151. Even though the green scaly monsters and the green slimy apparitions both became formidable merchandising franchises, Ghostbusters had 1984’s second highest box office total: $229,242,989, a ubiquitous pop music quotable Ray Parker Jr. theme song and Bill Murray breaking through even bigger as a solidified star with the role of the wise-cracking, lady’s man ghost grabber Peter Venkman.

Ghostbusters from IMDB:

Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

The very instant that Dr. Peter Venkman enters Ghostbusters we witness his professional priorities: using his scientific career to impress women. Accurate research ends up taking the back seat if it means that an attractive blonde needs to remain in the positive passenger seat of Venkman’s flirtatious ego. We also realize Peter Venkman will lose his proverbial smirk quickly when a guy interferes with his procedures.

After getting kicked off of Columbia University’s campus, and forced to take their no longer funded research project with them, Venkman and his associates Dr. Ray Stantz (Dan Aykroyd) and Dr. Egon Spengler (Harold Ramis) hop right into their supernatural start-up company, Ghostbusters, putting the paranormal in their private prison.

Hired help is soon in the building: a fourth ghoul fighter, the down-to-Earth Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson) and the spunky secretary Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts). Venkman’s playful jostling and random ridicule is not sidelined in the least bit when these new faces enter the initial three-amigo dynamic.

DR. PETER VENKMAN: Janine, someone with your qualifications would have no trouble finding a top-flight job in either the food service or housekeeping industries.

Tucked between the group’s heart-of-gold preternatural passion from Dr. Ray Stantz, the brainiac tunnel vision perfection of Dr. Egon Spengler, and the honest opinionated soul of the crew Winston Zeddemore, Dr. Peter Venkman is clearly the mouth, that spokesman willing to say what you may feel, but are way too afraid to utter out loud in the attempt to not burn bridges or ruin anyone’s self-esteem. There is no verbal filter to censor Venkman. All social interactions must cope with him on his own terms. He is the brightly jeweled wedding ring finger on a hand with otherwise normal digits – having the most fun in the bunch.

DR. PETER VENKMAN: Somebody blows their nose and you want to keep it?

Venkman may not be in-the-know when it comes to all of the mechanical circumstances surrounding their technologically advanced accessories, but he will raise the right questions when these tools seem to stand in the way of progress – or their ability to keep breathing.

DR. PETER VENKMAN: Why worry? Each one of us is carrying an unlicensed nuclear accelerator on his back.

Venkman’s resistance to non-believers and saboteurs is later revisited when he stands up to the problematic nosey antagonizing of Walter Peck (William Atherton), a lawyer hired to represent the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

DR. PETER VENKMAN: Yes it’s true. This man has no dick.

Venkman’s seductive swooning of their female clientele soon threatens to put him in direct contact with the “possessive” side of Dana Barrett (Sigourney Weaver), not of the jealously sort, but possessed by a nasty demon, with the unsettling title of Zuul The Gatekeeper.

Even with Venkman’s desire to date and mate with Dana, her Zuul alter ego proves to be harsh enough to remind him that ghouls aren’t gals.

DR. PETER VENKMAN: Let’s show this prehistoric bitch how we do things downtown… THROW IT!

Even when doing battle with pesky loiterers from the afterlife literally multiplies in size by way of the King Kong revision known as the gigantic Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, leave it to Peter Venkman to keep his humor on high, even when under duress and possible death.

For his spontaneous sarcastic quips, his effortless power of persuasion, his humor-heavy persistence in enticing women and his never-worried, cool-headed command of situations that seemingly have him outmatched – Dr. Peter Venkman is a classic, undeniably GREAT CHARACTER in Bill Murray’s well-curated collection.

Perhaps Bill Murray’s most memorable role.

Thank you, Jason, for this post. What’s your favorite bit from the movie? Please join us in comments to discuss Ghostbusters.

You may follow Jason on Twitter: @A2Jason.

Classic 80s Movie: “Ghostbusters”

December 14th, 2013 by

Today’s Classic 80s Movie guest post comes from Dean Scott.

Movie Title: Ghostbusters

Year: 1984

Writers: Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis (uncredited)

Lead Actors: Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Sigourney Weaver, Harold Ramis, Rick Moranis.

Director: Ivan Reitman

Plot Summary: Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost removal service.

Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movies: Whenever I think of 80s films the first that come to mind are the decades comedies – and at the top of the list, for me at least, is Ghostbusters. It is a film that has stood the test of time and has become a cult classic having spawned a sequel, video games, animated TV series, comic books, music albums, and HOPEFULLY a forthcoming sequel. Appearing at number 28 on the ‘AFI’s 100 years… 100 laughs’ list, Ghostbusters is a high concept film that can be summed up in the magic three words; guys hunting ghosts. Also starring some of the greatest comedy actors of the era in arguably their greatest comedy roles, an overview of 80s movies wouldn’t be complete without Ghostbusters.

My Favorite Moment In The Movie: The boys first meeting with the paranormal –

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie: The film is full of great dialogue – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qx73vTi5aFo However, Bill Murry’s witty lines are one of the things I love most about Ghostbusters –

Dana Barrett: That’s the bedroom, but nothing ever happened in there.
Dr. Peter Venkman: What a crime.

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This M­ovie: As the stars of the film are comedians in their own right, from a screenwriting perspective it is useful to watch Ghostbusters along with reading the script to study how the dialogue changed from script to screen. Other than that, Ghostbusters is a great film to study for character, structure, and of course great comedy writing.

Thanks, Dean! To show our gratitude for your guest post, here’s a dash of creative juju for you. Whoosh!

Tomorrow: Another Classic 80s Movie!

I’m still looking for people to write guest posts in this series. Please email me with the movie you’d like to cover. Here is a template you should use:

Movie Title

Year

Writers (both screenwriters and any authors whose books were used as the basis for adaptation)

Lead Actors (Just the main ones)

Director

IMDB Plot Summary (You can find that directly under the Your Rating box. If you don’t feel the summary does the story justice, feel free to write up a logline of your own.)

Why I Think This Is A Classic 80s Movies (Feel free to write as much as you’d like up to a half-page or so.)

My Favorite Moment In The Movie

My Favorite Dialogue In the Movie (IMDB has a Quotes section for almost every movie, so you can find key dialogue in your movie’s site.)

Key Things You Should Look For When Watching This Movie

Please use this exact template to help me in the editing process.

If you can find a YouTube clip from the film or its trailer, include that URL.

When you are done with your guest post, you may simply copy and paste the content into an email to me.

I will run the posts in the order I receive them.

And if you emailed me about doing a specific movie, but haven’t sent in your guest post, now’s the time!

Thanks, everyone!

Script To Screen: “Ghostbusters”

August 7th, 2013 by

From the 1984 movie Ghostbusters [written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis], the Final Struggle.

Setup: Gozer commands the three Ghostbusters to choose their form of destruction and despite trying to keep their minds blank, Stantz has a brain fart, resulting in this:

They all turn and look to the south.

GHOSTBUSTERS POV

Looking south past Columbus Circle, they see part of something big and
white moving between the buildings accompanied by thunderous footsteps of
almost seismic proportions.

VENKMAN

He doesn't know what it is yet, but he knows it's coming.

				     VENKMAN
				(desperately)
			What is it?  Ray, what did you think of?

BROADWAY AND 55TH

The massive white shape passes behind some buildings, offering a glimpse
of what appears to be a fat, white arm.

STANTZ

He's about to go into shock.

				     STANTZ
				(babbling)
			It can't be!  It can't be!

COLUMBUS CIRCLE

The thundering footsteps continue to plod as the thing starts to emerge
from behind the buildings.  Now we can see part of a blue garment covering
its enormous chest.

STANTZ

He recognizes the monster.

				    STANTZ
			It's ... It's ... It's the STAY-PUFT
			MARSHMALLOW MAN.

Winston, Venkman and Spengler gape.

THEIR POV

They look across the roof tops and see a large, square, white, bobbing,
laughing head atop a massive body of similar puffed white squares.  The
being is dressed in a tiny sailor's hat, red bosun's whistle and lanyard
and a little blue vest with a button undone in the middle revealing a
little white belly. It is the cute, quintessential American brand symbol,
looming as large as Godzilla.

				     STANTZ (V.O.)
				(desperately apologizing)
			I tried to think of the most harmless thing
			... something that could never destroy us
			... something I loved from my childhood.

THE GHOSTBUSTERS

They watch the Marshmallow Man plodding toward them.

				     VENKMAN
			AND YOU CAME UP WITH THAT?

				     STANTZ
			The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!  He was on
			all the packages we used to buy when I was
			a kid.  We used to roast Stay-Puft
			marshmallows at Camp Waconda!

				     VENKMAN
			Great!  The marshmallows are about to get
			their revenge.

THE STAY-PUFT MAN

He plods relentlessly uptown toward the Ghostbusters' rooftop vantage
point.  The ground rumbles as his big, soft feet come down on the
pavement.

THE STREET

People are fleeing in panic as the marshmallow feet pad along kicking over
lampposts and mail boxes.

A CAR

The driver jumps out just before an enormous white marshmallow foot comes
down and flattens his automobile.

THE GHOSTBUSTERS

They stand there helplessly watching the laughing bobbing head of the
Stay-Puft Man as he comes toward them.

				     VENKMAN
			What now?

				     SPENGLER
				(adjusting his thrower)
			Full-stream with strogon pulse.

Venkman looks at Stantz.  Stantz shrugs.

				     VENKMAN
				(decides)
			I guess that's all we've got.

They step to the edge of the roof, moving like warriors now ready to face
the consequences.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Questions to ask to analyze the scene:

* What elements in the movie scene are the same as the script?

* What elements in the movie scene are different than the script?

* Regarding the differences, put yourself in the mindset of the filmmakers and speculate: Why did they make the changes they did?

* How did the changes improve the scene?

* Alternatively are there elements in the script, not present in the movie, that are better than the final version of the scene?

* Note each camera shot in the movie version. Which of them does the script suggest via sluglines or scene description?

* How does the script convey a sense of the scene’s tone, feel, and pace through scene description and dialogue?

* What ‘magic’ exists in the movie that is not indicated in the words of the script? How do you suppose that magic emerged?

I’ll see you in comments for a discussion of this scene from Ghostbusters?

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.

[Originally posted March 7, 2012]

Script To Screen: “Ghostbusters”

March 7th, 2012 by

From the 1984 movie Ghostbusters [written by Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis], the Final Struggle.

Setup: Gozer commands the three Ghostbusters to choose their form of destruction and despite trying to keep their minds blank, Stantz has a brain fart, resulting in this:

They all turn and look to the south.

GHOSTBUSTERS POV

Looking south past Columbus Circle, they see part of something big and
white moving between the buildings accompanied by thunderous footsteps of
almost seismic proportions.

VENKMAN

He doesn't know what it is yet, but he knows it's coming.

				     VENKMAN
				(desperately)
			What is it?  Ray, what did you think of?

BROADWAY AND 55TH

The massive white shape passes behind some buildings, offering a glimpse
of what appears to be a fat, white arm.

STANTZ

He's about to go into shock.

				     STANTZ
				(babbling)
			It can't be!  It can't be!

COLUMBUS CIRCLE

The thundering footsteps continue to plod as the thing starts to emerge
from behind the buildings.  Now we can see part of a blue garment covering
its enormous chest.

STANTZ

He recognizes the monster.

				    STANTZ
			It's ... It's ... It's the STAY-PUFT
			MARSHMALLOW MAN.

Winston, Venkman and Spengler gape.

THEIR POV

They look across the roof tops and see a large, square, white, bobbing,
laughing head atop a massive body of similar puffed white squares.  The
being is dressed in a tiny sailor's hat, red bosun's whistle and lanyard
and a little blue vest with a button undone in the middle revealing a
little white belly. It is the cute, quintessential American brand symbol,
looming as large as Godzilla.

				     STANTZ (V.O.)
				(desperately apologizing)
			I tried to think of the most harmless thing
			... something that could never destroy us
			... something I loved from my childhood.

THE GHOSTBUSTERS

They watch the Marshmallow Man plodding toward them.

				     VENKMAN
			AND YOU CAME UP WITH THAT?

				     STANTZ
			The Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man!  He was on
			all the packages we used to buy when I was
			a kid.  We used to roast Stay-Puft
			marshmallows at Camp Waconda!

				     VENKMAN
			Great!  The marshmallows are about to get
			their revenge.

THE STAY-PUFT MAN

He plods relentlessly uptown toward the Ghostbusters' rooftop vantage
point.  The ground rumbles as his big, soft feet come down on the
pavement.

THE STREET

People are fleeing in panic as the marshmallow feet pad along kicking over
lampposts and mail boxes.

A CAR

The driver jumps out just before an enormous white marshmallow foot comes
down and flattens his automobile.

THE GHOSTBUSTERS

They stand there helplessly watching the laughing bobbing head of the
Stay-Puft Man as he comes toward them.

				     VENKMAN
			What now?

				     SPENGLER
				(adjusting his thrower)
			Full-stream with strogon pulse.

Venkman looks at Stantz.  Stantz shrugs.

				     VENKMAN
				(decides)
			I guess that's all we've got.

They step to the edge of the roof, moving like warriors now ready to face
the consequences.

Here is the scene from the movie:

Questions to ask to analyze the scene:

* What elements in the movie scene are the same as the script?

* What elements in the movie scene are different than the script?

* Regarding the differences, put yourself in the mindset of the filmmakers and speculate: Why did they make the changes they did?

* How did the changes improve the scene?

* Alternatively are there elements in the script, not present in the movie, that are better than the final version of the scene?

* Note each camera shot in the movie version. Which of them does the script suggest via sluglines or scene description?

* How does the script convey a sense of the scene’s tone, feel, and pace through scene description and dialogue?

* What ‘magic’ exists in the movie that is not indicated in the words of the script? How do you suppose that magic emerged?

I’ll see you in comments for a discussion of this scene from Ghostbusters?

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.