Friday, July 04, 2008

From a Recent Script Review

Another problem, I believe, is this relationship between Loofe and Claudette. I loved the characters! But what happens? They meet cute. Fall in love. Have sex. And all without hardly any complications or sense of impending trouble. You had this theme with Claudette in which a conversation with Marcel gives us a discussion about her being too obsessed about her work and how she needs to live life (which is so very tired and cliched nowadays). Well, when she finally broke that cycle and went on a date - then what? Where else can you go with that? It felt like you had to bring in Pascale in order to create some conflict because the plot about this couple was going nowhere. More impressive craftsmanship would be creating a conflict rooted in the personalities or lifestyles of Loofe and Claudette, which becomes an integral part of the mystery about the exploding frogs. I don't know why, but I'm reminded of a book I read recently, "Writing with Hitchcock." The first chapter was how John Michael Hayes handled "Rear Window." They knew they'd have Jimmy Stewart. They knew they'd have Grace Kelly. So what do you do with them? Before Hayes, early treatments had Stewart as a sportswriter and Grace Kelly as an actress. She wanted to act. He didn't think she'd ever make it, which was a source of conflict, and he couldn't commit to a relationship. In a pivotal scene where Kelly is caught in Thorwald's apartment, she "acts" her way out convincing Stewart she's a great actress and they get married. The evolution of the script was fascinating. Hayes changed Stewart's character to be a photographer who got hurt on a photo shoot, which is more dramatic and helps to more easily explain how he had met Kelly (on a fashion shoot). All of this gets established with the most beautiful piece of non-verbal exposition in the opening sequence where we see his broken leg, his broken camera, the photo that explains the accident, and Kelly on the cover of a magazine so we know how they met. All of this eliminates untold amounts of verbal exposition. Hayes changed the nature of their conflict to be more rooted in their characters and their lifestyles. Grace is high society while Stewart is middle class and happy with little money while riding jeeps in Africa and taking photos. Stewart felt he wasn't good enough for her, that his lifestyle would not make her happy. But as a twist, which Hitch suggested, she is actually chasing him. And so, over the course of this mystery, it was really about this couple being tested and her proving herself to him in a deeper way. She is so much more than a woman interested in a new dress, lobster dinner, and latest scandal. This time, when she's caught in Thorwald's apartment and wiggles her finger to Stewart to indicate that she had the big piece of incriminating evidence, that is, Mrs. Thorwald's wedding ring, there was ALSO the implication, as Truffaut pointed out, that since she just proved herself to Stewart, this was her proposal to him. The two plots came together so perfectly in that one moment. Of course, at this moment when Stewart realizes how wrong he was, how great she is, how he can't live without her, the tables are immediately turned, the watcher becomes the watched, and his onetime dream of freeing himself from Kelly even at the prospect of "welcoming trouble," becomes his own very real nightmare. Do you see what I mean? I'm not saying do THIS exactly. I'm just saying you should engineer a conflict ROOTED IN THE CHARACTERS, who they are, what they do, create obstacles for them, a conflict that escalates and gets resolved (good or bad) within this mystery about exploding frogs...

3 comments:

Matt said...

Wow, a thousand times agreement to this post... and coincidentally, as I'm typing this, I'm watching REAR WINDOW on TCM right now!

Have you read WRITING WITH HITCHCOCK? It's almost extensively about Hitch and Hayes's relationship? It wasn't terribly complicated on the surface, but...

Of course, my favorite part of Stewart being a photographer is that it gives a device to tell the story in the form of those huge, better-than-binocular camera lens he has strewn around his apartment.

Happy Independence Day, MM!

Mystery Man said...

Hey, Matt, thanks so much, man. I have read WRITING WITH HITCHCOCK, and I've got quite a few articles I'd like to write as a result.

There's a lesson learned in seeing the decisions they made that were good for the story.

And to you, my friend.

-MM

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