Please allow me to introduce you to Miriam Paschal, an active member of TriggerStreet, celebrated “Reviewer of the Month,” and consummate writing machine who, at the time of this posting, has 6 scripts on TriggerStreet including The Gates of Hell, Rapture of the Fallen (an epic vampire story), Out of Nowhere (a twist on Jack the Ripper), and my personal favorite, An Unnatural Soldier, which was nominated for “Screenplay of the Month.” Soldier is the story about Sarah Morris who “put away her apron and took up a musket” in the Civil War.
Miriam is a woman so passionate about screenwriting that she actually times the scenes when she watches movies. Hehehe… How can you not love that? Her subtext example? Something off the top of her head – a scene from Back to the Future. She writes:
Lorraine's line, "Marty, you seem so nervous. Is anything wrong?" is on-the-nose, but Marty's line, "Because you might regret it...later in life" has quite a bit of sub-text. We've already seen that Lorraine will drink later in life, but Marty can't tell her that. He has a moral dilemma. The next line, "Everybody who's anybody drinks" is a set-up for the last part of this exchange, which is wordless. With a look of resignation, Marty takes a drink. He doesn't have to say anything. We can see that he's defeated in both his argument and his attempt to save his mother from alcoholism.
Here’s the scene as you see it in the movie:
EXT. HS PARKING LOT – NIGHT
Marty pulls Doc’s car into a parking spot.
INT. DOC’S CAR - NIGHT
Marty turns off the car. He adjusts his neck in his collar as he fixes his tie.
Do you mind if we...park...for
That’s a great idea. I’d love to
Marty’s head whips around.
Lorraine giggles and bats her eyes.
Well, Marty, I’m almost eighteen
years old. It’s not like I’ve
never parked before.
Marty, you seem so nervous. Is
Marty looks around and grabs the steering wheel. He stares straight ahead, out the window.
Lorraine glances around, brings out a bottle, and takes a drink. Marty glances at Lorraine and sees the bottle.
He grabs the bottle and pries it away from her mid-swig.
...what are you doing?
I swiped it from the old lady’s
Yeah, well...you shouldn’t drink.
Because you might regret it...later
Marty, don’t be such a square.
Everybody who’s anybody drinks.
Marty, with a look of resignation, takes a drink himself. Out of the corner of his eye, he sees Lorraine light up a cigarette and does a spit-take.
Jesus, you smoke too?
Marty, you’re beginning to sound
just like my mother.
Here’s a bonus, something to fry your mind. Here’s how the scene was originally written. Consider how the scene was shortened. Consider all the lines that were cut…
EXT. SCHOOL PARKING LOT - NIGHT
Brown’s Packard pulls into the lot and parks.
INT. PACKARD - SAME
Marty, at the wheel, is very uneasy; Lorraine next to him looks beautiful in her best party dress. Marty glances at the clock on the dashboard. It’s 8 minutes before 9.
Uh, you don’t mind if we, uh, park
for a few minutes?
Why do you think I’d mind?
Well, I don’t know, some girls just
don’t like to...
Marty, I’m almost 18 years old.
It’s not like I’ve never parked
She scoots over, very close to him. Marty fidgets. Boy, is he nervous!
You seem nervous, Marty. Is
Have some of this - it’ll help you
She pulls a pint of gin out of her purse. Marty is shocked.
What are you doing with that?
I swiped it from the old man’s
She takes a nip.
Lorraine, you shouldn’t drink!
Well, it’s just not healthy.
Don’t be square, Marty. Everybody
who’s anybody does it.
She hands it to him.
Maybe I could use a hit...
Just as he takes a swig, she pulls out a pack of cigarettes and lights up. Marty spits out the gin in surprise.
Jesus - you smoke too?
Now, Marty, you’re not going to
tell me that smoking is unhealthy.
Everyone knows that it calms your
nerves and it’s good for the
It’ll give you cancer!
You know, you sound just like my
mother. When I have kids, I’m gonna
let them do anything they want.
I’d sure like to have that in
The comment goes right past Lorraine.
So what are your parents like? Are
they as square as mine?
Lorraine, lately I’ve come to the
conclusion that I don’t know
anything about them.