Wednesday, February 27, 2008

More Cinematic Storytelling!


Hey guys,

The four examples from last week just weren’t enough for me. So I’d like to share three more examples, except this time, they’re written by aspiring screenwriters, a few people who I think represent the next generation of cinematic storytellers.

Some day, guys, some day, a professional in the biz will say to you, “when I was reading your script, I could totally picture this on the screen.” And you will thank your old friend Mystery Man for all those damn articles about visual storytelling. Hehehe

Hope you enjoy them.

-MM

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First, a scene from a script that marked my
100th TriggerStreet review. It’s written by our longtime friend Mickey Lee Bukowski. If you were to mix a little bit of James Bond and Indiana Jones and throw this new character into a 1944 a British commando team battling the Nazis, you’ll get a big script called Operation: Atomic Blitz and a protagonist by the name of Garrett Davies. Great, great fun. It’s entertaining how Mickey Lee plays with action genre expectations while also giving us the hero’s arc in the protagonist IN AN ACTION MOVIE, which is unusual (and welcome), especially in a franchise-starter.

In this scene, the commando team is storming a German castle. (A little background, the castle is still partially in ruins from an earlier scene, which is why there are lots scaffolding. There’s also a little ribbing about Garrett having once tried to steal the Crown Jewels. He was a bad thief given a second chance by joining this commando team.) I love the way Mickey cuts back and forth between the smoking guard on the main platform and Garrett on the scaffolding.

And the gag is priceless.



EXT. GRAND TOWER BASE - NIGHT

Rubble from the original grand tower litters the beach. The Partisans take cover behind the larger stones.

The tower itself is a nest of scaffolding growing up from the beach all the way to the very top of the castle. Guards walk the upper platforms.

Garrett, Johanna, Hamlet and Ophelia crouch behind a large stone.

GARRETT
You sure you want to do this?

JOHANNA
Who else is going to disable the
bomb?

HAMLET
Don’t bother arguing with women,
Garrett. You just end up married
to them.

Ophelia gives him a look.

GARRETT
Cover me, Hamlet.

Ophelia unzips a bag, pulls out a huge sniper rifle. Lines up the sights, pulls back the bolt, readies to aim.

HAMLET
And now you know why I don’t argue.

Garrett nods, waits for the spotlight to pass, darts across the beach to the

SCAFFOLDING

Garrett climbs the lower scaffolds with cat-like agility. He leaps silently from one platform to the next.

MAIN PLATFORM

A SMOKING GUARD walks back and forth, stops to enjoy the beach. Hears something. Looks down the side to check. Sees nothing.

SCAFFOLDING

Garrett looks up -- too high to climb. He takes a grapple and rope from his shoulder. Balances it. Looks up at the next platform. Swings the grapple, lets it loose.

It catches. Garrett gives it a tug. Not stable. Curious, he tugs it again. Tries to climb, but it’s not secure.

MAIN PLATFORM

Smoking Guard struggles to stand, the grapple tied around his neck. The rope inches him toward the platform edge.

SCAFFOLDING

Garrett yanks harder and harder on the rope.

Seconds later, Smoking Guard topples off the platform, screaming.

The rope catches around a beam, acts as a pulley sending Garrett up to the Main Platform. Garrett catches onto the ledge, lets go of the rope.

Smoking Guard plummets to his death, hits all the scaffolding on the way down.

German Guards on the upper platforms look over to see their comrade fall to his doom.

Spotlights zero in on the scaffolding. An ALARM sounds.

ON THE BEACH

Hamlet and Johanna share a look.

HAMLET
The Crown Jewels, eh?

He stands, signals his Partisans.

HAMLET
(in Danish)
Take them down!

Gunfire erupts between the Partisans and the Guards on the scaffolding…

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Second, a scene taken from the
completely visual screenplay written by another longtime friend, Bob Thielke. This writer found himself so inspired by Jennifer van Sijll's book, Cinematic Storytelling that he wrote for himself, just as a creative exercise, a nearly dialogue-free screenplay just to practice the art of telling a story through visuals. The result is a script called 99 Luft Balloons. It’s a story about a couple separated by a big ugly wall and the protagonist, Albert Schaff, dresses like a clown and floats over the wall with a bunch of balloons to be with the one he loves. It’s really moving, actually.

In this scene, toward the end of Act 2, Albert’s at the job office (where he’s paid to be a clown for parties) and he just realized that the balloons won’t work. He goes to tell them he doesn't want to be a clown anymore. At the beginning of the scene, he's small and in the background (feeling diminished) until he realizes that they need him to do the birthday party for the chancellor's kid. He sees this as his possible escape and he moves up to the desk and towers over the poor little clerk who is now the diminished one.

This is brings to mind the scene in Citizen Kane, which I wrote about
here, where Kane, having just learned from his guardian, Thatcher, that the crash of ’29 wiped out his estate, paces along the Z-Axis and walks from the foreground to the background and back to the foreground again. Orson Welles communicated visually without one word of dialogue that Kane had returned to a state of boyhood. Great!

Ironically enough, in Bob’s script, which was virtually dialogue-free, this is one of the few scenes that actually has dialogue.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it:



INT. MINISTRY OF LABOR – DAY

Albert sits in his usual chair at the far end of the office, submissive look on his face.

The Clerk sits down and taps his pencil repeatedly.

CLERK
Now you’re telling me you don’t
want to be a clown? You are the
most difficult person I’ve ever had
to deal with.

Albert hangs his head in shame.

CLERK
Your skills for office work are
negligible, you’re too frail for
manual labor, and you show no
aptitude for technical skills.

Shrinking down in his chair, Albert looks away, feeling even smaller.

CLERK
But, I do have some interesting
news, if you’d care to hear.

Albert straightens up as his curiosity is piqued.

CLERK
I don’t know how you did it, but
the Chancellor wants to hire you to
entertain at his son’s birthday in
two months.

Albert is duly impressed.

CLERK
There will be at least one hundred
children there.

Albert, oblivious to the world, adds digits using his figures.

CLERK
You realize what an honor this is.
But you also realize that if you
turn this down or mess this up,
we’ll both be in huge trouble. I
for one don’t care to visit Siberia
anytime soon.

ALBERT
They’ve got to have balloons, huge
balloons.

CLERK
What?

ALBERT
The children. They’ll want to have
balloons.

CLERK
What concern is that of mine?

ALBERT
If they don’t have balloons, they
won’t be happy. If they’re not
happy, I can’t imagine the
Chancellor will be happy either.

The clerk comes to attention and scrambles to find a pencil.

CLERK
What’s a party without balloons?
How big do you want them?


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And finally, here’s a scene from a script that’s still in the works by our good friend
Pat (GimmeABreak) who has participated in almost every study on our blog. When I posted the Write the Shots article, Pat shared a scene from her script and I just loved it. This captures exactly what we mean by writing the shots. Good job, Pat.


INT. CELLAR – NIGHT

It's black.

Sounds of stilettos on a concrete floor.

A yellowed florescent light sputters to life.

Jack struggles against the chains that have him pinned to the wall.

The black leather hood lies next to a rubber mallet on a nearby rickety old table. A piece of duct tape covers his mouth.

LACY (O.S.)
How's it feel, asswipe?

Lacy, clad in the same scanty ensemble as earlier, approaches Jack.

In one hand, a

BIG FUCKIN' KNIFE, dripping with blood.

In the other, a Dove ice cream bar.

Jack, eyes wide, stares at the knife in horror.

LACY
Recognize this? One of your
favorites, I believe.

She slices the buttons from his shirt with the tip of the very sharp blade as Jack, petrified, watches the last one fall in slow motion.

She spreads his shirt open with the knife tip to reveal the location where most of the hair from his head has migrated.

She gives him the once-over.

LACY
You're such a liar. Furry AND
flabby. Yuck.

She tickles the tip of one of his nipples with the sharp edge of the knife. He flinches and issues a muffled cry as the blade scrapes the sensitive flesh.

Lacy giggles, teases the Dove bar with her tongue and jerks the knife upward with a quick flick of her wrist. Behind the gag, Jack screams.

LACY
I'd say payback's a bitch but I
think you used that one. In
Gruesome Twosome, I think. Or was
it Hammered? I forget. They all
just kind of melt into one.

She sets the ice cream bar on the table (where it sizzles like a steak on a grill), grabs a handful of chest hair and, wielding the knife like a straight razor, dry-shaves the patch. Jack's cries become louder and more high-pitched.

Jack watches with fear as a

FEMALE HAND

retrieves the mallet from the table. His fear becomes terror when he follows the hand up the

ARM

Across the

SHOULDER AND NECK

to

KITTY'S FACE.

She stares at Jack, licks the back of her free hand and, in a sweeping motion, wipes it across her forehead and back across her hair before looking at Lacy with a nod.

Lacy positions the tip of the knife just so in the bare patch on Tom's chest.

Kitty aims the mallet at the end of the knife handle.

As though she were Hank Aaron setting up for a series-winning home run, she raises the mallet like a baseball bat.

LACY
Well, girlfriend, let's see if
there's anything worth keeping in
this fat tub of goo.

The mallet smashes the knife handle with bone-crushing force to the sounds of:


EXT. KITTY'S APARTMENT - DAY

METAL GARBAGE CANS being tossed to the sidewalk of the house next door.

7 comments:

bob said...

I'll gladly admit that I borrowed liberally from Citizen Kane specifically and Jennifer's book in general. I think it'll be part of my preparation for a new screenplay from now on. Take an hour or two and go through her book to remind myself of the techniques that are out there.

Thanks for the shout out, MM!

ignatiusmonkey said...

Thanks for posting those scenes. As an aspiring writer banging out a first draft of my project right now, such well-written scenes definitely spark ideas. Some of the little things, like when to capitalize a setting or piece of narration, may seem small to the experienced but are a huge help to us fledglings.

I just bought Jennifer's book and have been pouring over it. It's a really great resource, a reminder of all the techniques at your disposal as a screenwriter.

Mickey Lee said...

Thanks for posting this, MM!

GimmeABreak said...

'preciate the kind words, MM. Your blog is one of the things that helps me, especially in this area!

Thanks!

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