Thursday, March 29, 2007


Submitted by our very good friend, Pat (GimmeABreak), as part of our Screenwriting Blog-a-Thon:

My fav SP is Amadeus by Paul Shaffer. It was a 1984 Oscar-winner based on a stage play from the 70s so the SP itself has the formatting common to that period (a lot of "we see"s and "cut to"s, long monologues, detailed descriptions, etc.) (an early draft is available here

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). The writing is very visual (a collaboration between the playwright and the director) and borders on what reviewers nowadays call novelish. It skips around in time. It has a narrator and lots of V.O. It spends most of the screen time on the antag, not the protag. It's a tragedy with a major downer ending. In fact, it does almost everything that McKee said you shouldn't when writing a screenplay. What's most unusual about it, though, is that the "villain" is the protag and the movie is named for the antag.

It's a fascinating character study and a marvelous example of how to imbue an unlikable protag with traits that make him sympathetic. It does the same with the antag, too. While we see him as a thorn in the protag's side, we also see the demons that drove him to his actions. It gives us an unlikable but sympathetic protagonist and a tormenting but tormented antagonist.

On a personal note, this was one of the few movies that my ADHD son sat through and enjoyed. I guess he inherited my love of tragic stories and classical music.

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