screenplay

3

INT. CINEMA. DAY. 

ROBBIE scrambles down a ladder and finds himself at the foot of a giant screen where the huge face, full of doomed melancholy, of Jean Gabin leans forward to kiss the shining lips of Michèle Morgan in Quai des Brumes. As Gabin kisses her a second time, ROBBIE, dwarfed by the enormous black-and-white image, buries his face in his hands.

Atonement (2007)

4

Fuck you, you don’t owe it to yourself man, you owe it to me. Cause tomorrow I’m gonna wake up and I’ll be 50, and I’ll still be doing this shit. And that’s all right. That’s fine. I mean, you’re sitting on a winning lottery ticket, and you’re too much of a pussy to cash it in and that’s bullshit. Cause I’d do fucking anything to have what you got. So would any of these fucking guys. It’d be an insult to us if you’re still here in 20 years. Hanging around here is a fucking waste of your time.

Good Will Hunting (1997)

Screen Writing

Okay, listen up, I love screen writing. Script format is my favorite form of writing. But, I’ve seen too many people go into it without knowing anything about it and thinking it’ll just magically work for them.

1. The formatting is a pain. Use a script writing software to do it. I recommend Celtx. It’s easy to use, shows examples, and it has a free trial that’s basically endless. You don’t get as many features as you do if you pay for it, but most of them are pretty unnecessary unless you’re already developing the writing into an actual production.

2. Easy on the action and description. Only be specific when it is absolutely necessary. Wiggle room is unbelievably important for the actors, director, and photography.

3. Always be open to criticism. You have to be a team player. A good project has many different opinions and the opinions are a good thing because it works out any flaws you may have in the production.

4. One page of script is equivalent to around a minute of actual film. And, you should probably go slightly over the required length. The director will cut what is unnecessary.

5. Monologues are fine… in moderation. People go off on tangents all of the time, but they don’t go off on them constantly. The quicker your dialogue, the better the script. It’s different than regular writing because it should be fast-paced. Since the audience is seeing it, they’ll be a lot more quick to pick up on repetitiveness. It’s a lot easier to bore an audience.

6. Don’t describe every single reaction that a character has. The actors need to be able to interpret it so that way they can actually act in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

7. Practice makes perfect. Do it frequently. Read scripts. I’m being serious. You’ll learn a lot.

8. You’re probably not magically going to magically write a hit movie or TV show at first. Experience, experience, experience. I’m starting my first genuine script experience as a script supervisor for an indie short film. My job is to make sure there’s continuity within the script and production. You’re probably not going to get paid as you first start out and you’re probably not going to have your own script used unless you lucked out with some really good connections or have an excess amount of money. It’s a ladder and you have to work your way up. The more experience you have, the more connections you will have in the industry, and you will be more likely to be successful. That being said, try to make it good experience. Avoid working on projects that you’re sure are going to be terrible just because you want the experience. You don’t want to be remembered for something awful. If it’s a little awful, that’s alright, but just watch out for disasters.

9. Beta readers are so, so important. Take as many opinions as you can get. And, make sure to listen to any advice you can get.

10. Parallels in writing come off so

much more noticeably and beautifully in screen writing when they’re done properly. I don’t recommend reusing the same parallel more than a couple times because of repetition, but a scene that’s similar to another is so much easier to see in script than most other forms of writing and will come across in a very prominent way.

11. Character backstories should exist, but don’t focus too much on every character unless it’s important. Script is snappy and quick. You have to focus on the story more than anything else. There isn’t as much time to mess around as there is in other types of stories.

12. Have fun. These are suggestions, not rules. If you can find a way to break some of my suggestions and keep it interesting, go for it. It’ll make it original and originality is always interesting.

5

“It’s funny how people see me and treat me, since I’m really just a simple, boring person.”

-The Station Agent (2003) Dir. Tom McCarthy

Excuse me while I gush a bit about Belle…

One thing I love about the character of Belle in Beauty and the Beast – and one thing that took me far too long to put a name to – is her strength of character, her steadfastness.

If you think about it, Belle is an exception to the old storytelling rule about ‘character arcs’ and the quote/unquote “need” for a character to “change” throughout the course of the story.

Belle is EXACTLY the same person she is in the opening number as she is at the end of the film.

Oh, sure, she’s found love, but her personality, her inner-core, remains unchanged. And this is a GOOD THING!

Belle begins the story as a smart, book-loving young woman who loves her father and is not tempted by the flashiness or status of the town’s reigning playboy, Gaston. She thinks for herself, possessing a rich inner-life and a strong code of ethics.

This is EXACTLY who she is at the end of the film.

Throughout the film, Belle is thoughtful, logical and intelligent. (Arguably the most thoughtful, most logical and most intelligent ‘Disney princess’ to date!) Yet she’s also shown to be both highly impulsive and emotional quite early on in the film.

Twice, in fact!

The first time is when Philippe returns home without Maurice. Does Belle do the ‘logical’ thing – the ‘smart’ thing – and go into town for help, possibly creating a search party to better cover the enormous expanse of woods and countryside separating her house and wherever the inventor was heading?

Nope. She hops on the horse and heads off into the unknown. Impulsive and emotional.

The second time is when Belle gets to the Beast’s castle, finds her father shivering in a tiny prison cell and is confronted by the Beast. Does she try to reason with the Beast? Engage in a war of words, maybe even attempting some sort of trickery using her unquestionably sharper wits?

Nope. She immediately offers herself – her freedom, her life, basically – in exchange for her father’s freedom. Impulsive and emotional.

I LOVE THIS.

Belle is NOT some robotic, one-note intellectual caricature who only ever breaks from her complicated mental calculations at the emotional/romantic climax of the story. So many movies – so many Disney movies – make a character’s primary personality trait operate like some sort of on/off switch, to be toggled at arbitrary moments in the film in an effort to show ‘conflict’ and ‘growth’. THIS IS NOT WHAT LIFE IS LIKE!!!

We are all all things.

I hate how in stories, the good guy only has to mess up once to become the bad guy, and bad guy only has to do one good thing at the end to be redeemed. A life, a person, a personality – we are a constant accumulation of all our words and thoughts and actions. It’s the cluttered, often conflicting nature of these three things that make us…us. In fiction, this is what makes a character feel ‘alive’ instead of just ‘iconic’.

So Belle starts Beauty and the Beast as a thoughtful, logical, intelligent, book-loving young woman who thinks for herself, possessing a rich inner-life and a strong code of ethics and who loves her father and is not tempted by the flashiness or status of the town’s reigning playboy, Gaston – and this is EXACTLY how she ends the film.

Instead of this making her the product of weak storytelling or a character whose impact is lessened by the lack of any real ‘arc’, it makes her feel REAL.

Goddamn, I love this movie.

GIF: James Baxter’s pencil animation for Belle from Beauty and the Beast

GIF via: the-disney-elite.tumblr.com