Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Your Screenplay, The Classic Film Lessons

            Your Screenplay, The Classic Film Lessons

    It seems that the majority of film critics agree that the best year ever generated by film makers was the year 1939. At least 10 four star all time classic films were released that year. The Wizard of Oz, Stagecoach, Young Mister Lincoln, Destry Rides Again, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Wuthering Heights and The Oscar winner that year, Gone With the Wind.

    All of these movies have one thing in common. They are almost pure story from beginning to end. Every scene has value. In movies like Gone With The Wind almost every line of dialogue is there to reveal something about the character who delivers it.

    “How can these movies help me to write my micro budget screenplay?”

    I will go back to what I just told you. These films were pure story. Some had the equal of multi million dollar budgets and some did not. All of them had great story telling at their core. In the low to micro budget world story telling will have to make up for massive special effects and overpaid actors.

    We live in a world where board games become major summer releases. Pointless and plot-less releases that are quickly rejected by the movie viewing public. A great story well told is what we should all aim to produce.

    The problem is that no one knows exactly how to do this because no two people tell a story in exactly the same way. I can suggest things to you, but I cannot give you a special formula that will get it done every time. The best screen writers on earth have written great films and turned around and written something lifeless and boring. You are the writer of your no budget screenplay.

    One of my favorite modern horror movies is Jeepers Creepers. I love the script for that movie. The writer/director of the film based it largely upon the great Universal films of the 1930's and the Creature from the Black Lagoon from the 1950's. My favorite Vampire film of all time  Fright Night (1985) and the movie Disturbia is based upon the Hitchcock classic Rear Window. The writers of these films took lessons from these movies and gave them their own spin.

     Learn to watch classic films in a new way. Not just as a member of an audience, but as a writer. Watch how one sense is connected to another. Study how dialogue is selected to tell you all that you need to know about the characters and their motivations. The greatest scene ever written of this type is in the movie It’s A Wonderful Life.  You find out everything that you will ever need to know about these characters by what they say about themselves and about each other. And it is all done in one minute.  Violet, Mary and George are revealed to us through this little exchange.  Here is a except from the shooting script of It's A Wonderful Life.


MEDIUM SHOT –– George comes in and crosses to an old-fashioned
cigar lighter on the counter. He shuts his eyes and makes a wish:

Wish I had a million dollars.

He clicks the lighter and the flame springs up.

GEORGE (cont'd)
Hot dog!

WIDER ANGLE –– George crosses over to the soda fountain, at which
Mary Hatch, a small girl, is seated, watching him. George goes on
to get his
apron from behind the fountain.

GEORGE (calling toward back room)
It's me, Mr. Gower. George Bailey.

CLOSE SHOT –– Mr. Gower, the druggist, peering from a window in
back room. We see him take a drink from a bottle.

You're late.

MEDIUM SHOT –– George behind soda fountain. He is putting on his

Yes, sir.

WIDER ANGLE –– Violet Bick enters the drugstore and sits on one
of the stools at the fountain. She is the same height as Mary and
the same age, but she is infinitely older in her approach to people.

VIOLET (with warm friendliness)
Hello, George.
(then, flatly, as she sees Mary)

'Lo, Mary.

MARY (primly)
Hello, Violet.

George regards the two of them with manly disgust. They are two
kids to him, and a nuisance. He starts over for the candy

Two cents worth of shoelaces?

She was here first.

I'm still thinking.

GEORGE (to Violet)

Please, Georgie.

George goes over to the candy counter.

VIOLET (to Mary)
I like him.

You like every boy.

VIOLET (happily)
What's wrong with that?

Here you are.

George gives Violet a paper sack containing licorice shoelaces.
Violet gives him the money.

VIOLET (the vamp)
Help me down?

GEORGE (disgusted)
Help you down!

Violet jumps down off her stool and exits. Mary, watching, sticks
out her tongue as she passes.

CLOSE SHOT –– George and Mary at fountain.

Made up your mind yet?

I'll take chocolate.

George puts some chocolate ice cream in a dish.

With coconuts?

I don't like coconuts.

You don't like coconuts! Say, brainless, don't you know where
coconuts come from? Lookit here –– from Tahiti –– Fiji Islands,
the Coral Sea!

He pulls a magazine from his pocket and shows it to her.

A new magazine! I never saw it before.

Of course you never. Only us explorers can get it. I've been
nominated for membership in the National Geographic Society.

He leans down to finish scooping out the ice cream, his deaf ear
toward her. She leans over, speaking softly.

CLOSE SHOT –– Mary, whispering.

Is this the ear you can't hear on? George Bailey, I'll love you
till the day I die.

She draws back quickly and looks down, terrified at what she has

CLOSE SHOT –– George and Mary.

    It has never been done better.  You will know who George is, who Violet is and who Mary is for the rest of the story. George is a dreamer. Mary loves George and Violet is well Violet. Their characters are defined in that one scene.

    Okay that is it for today. Sorry that the post are coming about a month apart, but I am working on a script and it is taking longer than I thought. It always does doesn’t it. Remember to add us to your google plus.
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