Welcome to the Screenwriting Blog-a-Thon!
What's your favorite screenplay? Can you tell me?
For the first weekend in April, we blogged heartily about our collective, euphoric love of those well-crafted screenplays, so please make yourself at home.
A favorite screenplay question is more complicated than you might realize. We all have favorite films, and thus, we could conclude that those would be our favorite screenplays, too, right? How many of you, especially all you ambitious new screenwriters out there, have actually read the screenplays of your favorite films? Or how about this - have you ever loved a film and then read the screenplay only to be disappointed? And you walk away from that script marvelling that the film actully turned out well? Let me ask another question: do you love a screenplay simply because you connected with the story on some level or because you admire the crafty writing? Personally, the screenplays that I treasure are the ones composed by true masters of the craft - that fail.
Please engage all of the very kind and thoughtful contributors by adding comments to their posts. I'll be updating the table of contents frequently all weekend. Let me know with a link to this post in your article or e-mail me and I'll add your article to the list!
Table of Contents (updated 4/3/07 at 8:30 am):
- Our very first post, Mr. Edward Copeland on Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo. "Maybe if you're a character such as Delilah, especially a Depression-era stereotype, trapped in a movie that's stalled because one of the characters has stepped off the screen and into the real world, you'd be bored as well. However, if you are a moviegoer lucky enough to be watching Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, boredom should be impossible. As far as I'm concerned, this film is Allen's masterpiece." Thanks so much, Eddie. It was a great article.
- "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take this anymore!" Joe at This Distracted Globe gives us his take on Paddy Chayefsky's Network: "There are great movies that came close to being shot, beat for beat, exactly as they were written – Billy Wilder & I.A.L. Diamond, and later, John Sayles, did it when they directed their own material – but Network stands alone. It’s the greatest black comedy ever made, and instead of becoming a product of its day, has actually grown more relevant as a social statement as the years have passed." (By the way, you can get the script here.) Great post, Joe.
- Billy Mernit gives us his favorite Top Ten Romantic Comedy Screenplays. "Love them all dearly and have plenty to say about each. But life is short and instead of going long, I've decided that periodically over the next few months, I will devote a post apiece to each of these top ten screenplays, so I can analyze, revere/carp and blather on about them at leisure. For now, I'll just post the list and invite your response on whether or not I've gotten things things right (I welcome the obligatory incredulous "how could you leave out ---?!" comments)." I can't argue with you, Billy. I have a very twisted soul. Hehehe...
- Amadeus - submitted here by our very dear friend and very excellent writer, Pat (GimmeaBreak). "I've studied this extensively and it hits most of the classical beats where it should so it's a good example from that perspective (opportunity - Salieri's father dies; change of plans - Salieri vows to destroy Mozart after learning of the seduction of Cavalieri; point of no return - after Mozart public humiliates Salieri, Salieri hires the maid to spy on Mozart and concocts a plan to use Mozart's father's influence as a weapon; major set-back - Mozart takes ill; climax - Constanze takes the Requiem manuscript from Salieri and Mozart dies)." Thanks so very much, Pat. Great post.
- American Beauty - a very sweet submission from Juliane Cartaino: "Before I settled on American Beauty I tried to read other scripts for movies I had seen but I found the exposition and other technical aspects of the formatting so distracting that it was impossible to forget that you were reading a script. Whereas,a script in which the story and dialogue stand alone so well, it is easy to suspend disbelief and find yourself immersed in it. That is a thing of beauty indeed." Great post, Juliane. Thanks for that.
- Playwright Joshua James talks about The Godfather: "There are many things done in that screenplay that, if submitted as a spec today, wouldn’t be allowed (beginning but not ending with the length of the script, the lack of a “good” guy or “hero”, the sheer number of people with difficult names and a costume drama to boot) . . . it’s a classic piece of film history and mainly because the screenplay, which won an Oscar, keeps the story in the proper world and context (allegedly Robert Evans wanted to make it with Ryan O’Neal and Ernest Borgine and set it in the seventies, can you imagine) and keeps it real." I can't argue with that. The Godfather script, which is available here, is most certainly one of my favorites, as well. Thanks so much, Joshua. I must see one of your plays.
- Your very own Mystery Man also gives us his thoughts on The Godfather: "A lot of writers would try fancy schticks to convey the idea that a particular character is powerful, especially through excessive talk or a huge office. But in the opening shot, I am still moved by the simplicity of how easily Coppola conveyed to the world that Don Corleone is a powerful man. He was not in a huge office, and the Don didn’t have to say anything special to prove how powerful he was. We knew it from the way Amerigo Bonasera poured his heart out to the man in front of him and begged for justice and with the way the camera would pan back, and we would look at Bonasera over Brando’s shoulder." MM offered a second post on his favorite script that failed - The Godfather Part III. Say, why am I talking about myself in the third person?
- Our very dear friend and talented screenwriter, Miriam Paschal, a girl so passionate about screenwriting that she actually times scenes when she watches movies and gives us those those wonderful movie breakdowns (and she's also the girl who just offered up the world's first script-to-screen analysis of Taxi Driver), blogged about her favorite script - Back to the Future. "All of Blake's beats were there in the script, and most of what you see in the movie is also there in this script. Some of the stuff in this script is BETTER than what ended up in the movie. There's a bit in the beginning where Marty uses a mirror and chewing gum to set off the smoke alarm that would have been very funny to watch. The thing about him being able to get into the garage of the model home because he has the keys in his pocket is great. And there's this extra scene with George, where he's practicing hitting a bag of laundry and finally uses his left hand instead of his right. I interpreted it as his left hand being like a direct line to his sub-conscious. The two Bobs cut that scene because they wanted it to be more of a surprise when George finally cold-cocks Biff. But I think it would have worked if they had left it in."
- A superb article from our friend, the screenwriterguy on Shawshank Redemption: "The screenplay begins with a hot sex scene. And I mean hot. Consider paragraph three: 'He enters her right then and there, roughly, up against the wall. She cries out, hitting her head against the wall but not caring, grinding against him, clawing at his back, shivering with the sensations running through her. He carries her across the room with her legs wrapped around him. They fall into the bed.' Then we discover Andy Dufresne (played by Tim Robbins) outside their bungalow, unshaven and drunk in his car, able to hear the sounds of their passion. That’s his woman in there, and she’s not with him. At the top of page two, he pulls a gun from his glove compartment. (The movie mixes this up a bit.) Say what you will, sex and violence ain’t a dumb way to get my attention in the first minute of a movie." Hehehe... Great article, man. You have to watch out for those anonymous screenwriters.
- We have another entry on the Shawshank Redemption, this one from Emma, who humorously describes herself as "an annoying self-indulgent, acid-tongued 16-year-old girl living in London, attempting to maintain the balance of studying for her AS Levels and watching lovely movies at the same time." She gives us 7 great reasons why the script "rules." I'll give you 4: Engaging Supporting Characters, Detestable Villains, Believable Sense of Fear, and Making us Care and Learn to Hope. Great article, Emma. You write like a pro. If you ever write a script and you need some feedback, let me know.
- Another very good friend, Todd Gordon, shares with us his thoughts on The Fabulous Baker Boys: "A perfect example of how to use white space, limited dialogue that moves you down the page like a Porsche on the Autobahn, concise description to tell us just what we need to know, exposition done wonderful, character development that doesn't need to bash us over the head with tons of backstory..." Amen to that. Great post, man. Thanks so much.
- "Who is Keyser Soze?" The Suburban Screenwriter dissects all the tricks in The Usual Suspects. "McQuarrie pulls a little bit of trickery by presenting 'Verbal' Kint and then allowing him to play everyone for the entire movie only to escape in the end and poor Agent Kujan is left having to clean up his broken coffee cup. But, in order for us to believe this clever deceiver, McQuarrie first shows Verbal into our hearts..." Thanks so much.
- Bob G plunders the pearls in Pirates of the Caribbean: "In this way the construction of the story is almost mathematical and appeals to me on that basis, like the game of Go does: from the smallest, simplest collection of axioms springs a complex and exciting landscape. The simple axioms in Curse of the Black Pearl are: Elizabeth has a fascination with pirates. Will needs to prove himself to Elizabeth. Swann wants his daughter to marry well. Barbossa longs to experience sensual pleasures again." (On a personal note, I read Pirates before it was released and recall thinking it was "okay." I thought Sparrow could've had a little more depth. But then I saw Depp's performance, which had so much flare, I was absolutely stunned. He was nothing like I pictured him and far more interesting. For me, that movie is a constant reminder of how great actors can take roles into different, interesting, and even better directions than your own vision.) By the way, Bob also had another great post on the parallels between Raiders and Pirates, which was quite fun.
- A hilarious article from James Henry on Mean Girls: "Every school has a Regina George. She’s the bitch whom everyone despises and fears at the same time. She’s the kind of a girl who would kick her parents out of the master bedroom because she wanted it. She manipulates those around her to do what she wants and follow everything she does. Regina is the ultimate diva bitch, but like Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly, but we see her vulnerable side for a brief moment (in the cafeteria when she admits that her sweatpants are the only ones that fit) and it adds so much to her character." Hehehe... I really enjoyed that. Thanks so much, James Henry.
- A relatively new but very good friend, Guillermo, posted his thoughts on Panic: "Panic is a deft and well-crafted script: in the vernacular, a real page turner. 88 pages of perfection. Right from page one we're drawn into the story. And with every flip of the page we're glued to every word waiting with baited breath to find out what happens next. Bromell is a brilliant writer. Panic the script actually turned into Panic the Movie, virtually word for word -- a very good thing. Panic (the movie) should've been seen by millions, but after a disappointing screening the distributor dropped it quicker then you can say, 'Panic.' And it's a damn shame." Hehehe... You did just fine, man. That was a great post. I've got to see that movie...
- Vi Veri Veniversum Vivus Vici - J.D. Judge talks about V for Vendetta: "To think that film is simple is to say that Albert Eistein was mentally retarded. It is a complex and woven blend of art and sounds, from beginning to end. But there is one thing, no matter the film, that without, there would be no beginning: the screenplay." Thanks so much, J.D.
- "It's no secret that I'm an action girl," says our good friend Emily Blake. Her choice - The Matrix: "This was the first DVD I ever owned and the first script I ever bought and the first poster I ever framed. I wrote two term papers on The Matrix in grad school. I love this movie. It's a love story and a tale of self-discovery and betrayal and fate with lots of ass-kicking. But you know the story. I'm going to focus on structure." Superb analysis, Emily. Thanks so much.
- "I am Jack's Screenplay." Hehehe... Michael Patrick Sullivan takes a swing at Fight Club. Sorry. Bad pun but great article. "Voice, to me, is what really separates a so-so movie from something really special. Usually it comes though as a result of the whole shebang (to use a technical term), but Fight Club is a first-person story, and then later it becomes a first-person story (heh) so it's really driven in. A lot of this comes from the novel, and as an adaptation goes, this one is top notch." Thanks, man. It's a pleasure to meet you.
- And one final blog-a-thon entry from Janet, the Manhattan playwright: "'The heavens opened,' he was saying later, 'And angels were singing,' and he handed me the screenplay, complete with directors’ notes and critique from the producers. I couldn’t believe his luck… no: I couldn’t believe mine. I studied that screenplay with more ferocity than my college application, and concluded that (having just re-re-re-read the book recently), the screenplay was the best adaptation from novel to cinema I had ever read." The script? Gone with the Wind. Thanks so much, Janet. Loved the article.