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Author Topic: Draft scene from HIT SOMEBODY by Kevin Smith  (Read 2172 times)
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Pitchpatch
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« on: March 19, 2011, 12:38 PM »

http://silentbobspeaks.com/?p=413

I'm sure Kevin won't mind me posting this scene in entirety here. (Let me know if you know otherwise.)

I want to highlight something that Kevin and most successful screenwriters do.

Writing requires an author to slide up and down a scale.  Capping each end of that scale is Denotation and Connotation, Objective and Subjective, Fact and Feeling.

Linger at the 'fact' end too long and your writing will sit there cold and emotionless.  No color.  Just efficient, detached, accurate, clinical words on the page.  Remain at the 'feeling' end too long and your text will grow overblown, melodramatic, unreal and noisy.

So you don't overdo it.  You wander up and down the scale.  Usually you serve the meat and potatoes first.  But once that stuff's on the plate you're free to add a little garnish here and there.  I've highlighted in red the delicious flourishes of 'feeling' Kevin writes into his scene.  We can name those flourishes accordingly -- metaphor, interior monologue, etc. -- but what it comes down to is how those sentences carry subtext.  They're ripe with meaning beyond the literal.  They help the reader understand what's really going on in a scene.

Some might shout: "Unfilmables!  Only write what you can see on screen."  That old chestnut.  We should rip that page from every screenwriting textbook.

"Fisherman Blue Jay feels a tug at his line."  Any proficient actor will deliver that moment on screen, and in a dozen subtly different ways.  A glance, a gesture, a shift in posture... some physical change.  That moment is filmable.  The audience will pick up the actor's physical cue and they'll get it: Jay reached out to the boy and the boy just reached back.

Screenwriters shouldn't ignore the basic behavioral programming we all understand instinctively at the deepest human level.  Leverage it, like Kevin Smith does in this draft scene.  As I love to repeat: do it the Pixar way.  Give 'em 2 + 2 instead of 4.  That's what makes an engaging script read or an engaging cinema experience.  Let your audience work a little to connect the dots within the context you've provided.  They'll thank you for involving them.

"Suddenly: a small hint of interest from Buddy. Fisherman Blue Jay feels a tug at his line."

Fact. Feeling.

A powerful combo.  Used sparingly, it uplifts your screenwriting from functional to delightful.

Kevin's a guy who loves words on the page.  Forget the hubbub about his retirement.  I predict he won't quit scriptwriting any time soon.


———————————
EXT McCRACKEN BACKYARD RINK - DUSK

Blue Jay Jennings climbs out of his truck, carrying a bag.

Close on the side of the barn, as a puck rockets through it. Then another. There are LOTS of holes, dents, or embedded pucks in the side of the barn today. BLAM! Another puck just misses Blue Jay as he steps near the barn, arms raised.

BLUE JAY
Don’t shoot.

Buddy mean-mugs Jay as he studies the barn damage.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
Well… we know you can hit the broad side of a barn.

BUDDY
I was aiming at your car.

Jay looks to where his car is - far, far from the barn. Can the master spin this one?

BLUE JAY
Y’know, it’s pretty windy out today…

BUDDY
What do you want?

BLUE JAY
A less lippy tone’d be nice, for starters. I never met a hockey
player who wasn’t polite and respectful out of a sweater.
Speaking of which…

Jay pulls a hockey sweater from the bag he’s carrying, holding it up for Buddy to see. The BUCKOS is the team name.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
This is yours.

Buddy eyes the jersey, now sullied. He heads over to the barn and pulls a few pucks out of the wall, ignoring Jay. Jay sighs, reaching into his coat. He cracks open a beer.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
I’ll tell you one thing: you can’t be a hockey player with a temper
like that. Every hockey player I know that didn’t die in
a car wreck lived to be eighty years and died peacefully in their sleep.
That might mean nothing to a kid like you, but the older you get, the
more a peaceful death starts sounding pretty sweet.

Suddenly: a small hint of interest from Buddy. Fisherman Blue Jay feels a tug at his line.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
You know what a heart attack is?

Buddy shrugs “kinda”.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
When you’re an adult, life’s not very fun anymore, kid. They expect
productivity. And the pressure that comes with expectation
of any kind - the stress and the anger and the jealousy…
Over a lifetime?
(mimes a heart attack; then)
But that doesn’t happen to hockey players. Know why?

Buddy shakes his head. Blue Jay points to the barn.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
Hockey players are allowed to beat people up.

Buddy’s taken back by this. Blue Jay nods.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
They take out their troubles on the ice. They take it out on the
puck, or some sumbitch ain’t got his head up. For two minutes,
all that stuff us mere mortals gotta deal with as thinking
organisms on a cold rock in space that doesn’t care whether we
hang on or spin off into the Milky Way? The stuff most people call
“real life”? For two minutes , a hockey player gets to skate
it all away. You can’t drop gloves on life, kid - but in The Game? They’ll
cheer you if you do. Because they all know what a struggle…
what a fight life can be. And when they see you take a swing -
with your stick or a good right hook - they feel like you’re taking a swing for
them. And lots of people will tell you that ain’t right. But brother?
(whispers)
There ain’t nothin’ righter.

Blue Jay winks and smiles widely at Buddy. Buddy melts further, smiling back. Blue Jay sees the opening.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
I’m not out here because of what happened with _________ ,
and I’m not out here because I’m short any players. I’m out here
because you’re a pip of a fighter. And everyone’ll tell you fighting’s
not part of The Game, but it is - second only to scoring
goals. The team I’m putting together’s gonna need fighters, so
whadya say, sport?

Buddy won’t answer. Blue Jay eyes the boy.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
My Dad died when I was nine.

Buddy looks to Blue Jay, sympathetic.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
Heart attack. While he was on our roof.

EXT ROOFTOP - DAY - FLASHBACK

Jay’s Father suffers a heart attack while hanging a BLACKHAWKS flag near the chimney. He grabs his chest, losing his balance. But rather than fall forward off the roof, he’s caught on the flag pole. After a moment, he dies, sorta standing, arm up.

OC BLUE JAY
Worst part was nobody knew it right away. So my Dad hung up
on that roof ‘til dark. The whole neighborhood just waved at him.

People are passing by on the neighborhood street: Post Man, Woman with Stroller, even the Milk Man. Each wave at Blue Jay’s dead father on the roof.

EXT McCRACKEN BACKYARD RINK - DUSK

Back to Jay and Buddy on the backyard rink.

BLUE JAY
(ruefully, sotto)
Goddamn the overly-polite Illinois suburbs…
(shakes it off)
When he died, it left a hole in me I wanted to climb inside and never
come out of. I’d cry myself to sleep every night.

BUDDY
(cautiously engaged)
You’d cry?

BLUE JAY
Sure. He was my Dad.
(beat)
But then I remembered why my Dad was on that roof: he loved his
Hawks. My ol’ man never picked up a stick in his life, but he loved
The Game. Drove us to see the Junior B out in the Soo every season.
One time, we even went to Maple Leaf Gardens. Leafs and Hawks.
Not a great night for the Hawks, lemme tell ya’. I’ll betcha nobody who
played in the Gardens that night probably even remembers that game…
(wistfully)
But I know I’ll never forget it.

Buddy smiles warmly. Jay’s got him on the ropes.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
And I started thinking that, by playing hockey, I’d have my Dad back
in some little way. Not back, y’know - just… around.
Kinda. So I threw myself into The Game. And whenever I’d play, I’d
feel closer to my Dad. And even better? The crying stopped. Know why?

Buddy wants to know. Blue Jay closes.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
Once I got on that ice? I let it all go. All that anger, all
that sadness? I skated it out. I scrummed it away. I became a scrapper!

Blue Jay puts the sweater in Buddy’s hands.

BLUE JAY (CONT’D)
I’d like to give you the chance to do the same. On my team.

- Copyright Kevin Smith
« Last Edit: March 19, 2011, 02:00 PM by Pitchpatch » Logged

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« Reply #1 on: March 20, 2011, 10:54 PM »

Quote
"Unfilmables!  Only write what you can see on screen."  That old chestnut.  We should rip that page from every screenwriting textbook.

I respectfully disagree.  The concept of unfilmables has become oversimplified in the retelling over the years.  The rule of thumb actually is:

"Only write what you can convey on screen."

An actor can convey what they are thinking or feeling on-screen.  They cannot, however, convey where they were a month ago unless it's left some physical evidence.

It's fine to write "By the look of his belly, Larry likes beer."  You can convey that.  But if you write "Larry likes beer," and there's no physical evidence, and no beer to react to, how do you dramatize that for the audience?

I have read many scripts containing unfilmables like "Bob is the best fighter of them all," but at no time does Bob do any fighting, or does anyone else defer to Bob because of his fighting prowess.  That's unfilmable.

-OneTwenny-
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« Reply #2 on: March 21, 2011, 12:34 AM »

That needed clarification, definitely.  I should keep in mind I'm potentially speaking to newbie screenwriters reading this site.  That wasn't the case before.

My admonishment was for those who take literally the "only write what you can see on screen" rule.

I like your test better: "how do you dramatize that for the audience?" which is a variation on the gold standard rule "Show, don't tell."

"Jeff is a tall man." -- no problem, we'll see that on screen.  Dramatized through a physical character trait.

"Jeff's a tall man who enjoys making others feel small."  First part is factual.  Second part, we're not describing one specific on-screen moment.  We're describing an aspect of overall character behavior the actor will exploit throughout.  (Devil's Advocate) So that's dramatized, right?  It's like writing: "Jeff speaks with a heavy German accent."  We're pointing out something intended to pervade the whole story.

As you point out, statements of fact (and 'feeling') must be supported by physical evidence somewhere in the script.  You can't write "he enjoys making others feel small" without including elsewhere dialogue or behavior backing up that statement.  I suppose a really good actor could dramatize that aspect in their overall performance despite any other dialogue or behavior written into the script.  But to a reader it's just extremely lazy screenwriting.

"Jeff's a tall man who enjoys making others feel small."  So in this moment let's show Jeff making someone feel small.  Soon as that scene/moment is on the page we can delete the second part of that original sentence.  Then, if we add some dialogue or interaction that acknowledges Jeff's physical height we can kill the first part of the sentence too.  We've shown that he's a tall man and he likes to belittle others.  That's the kind of engaging "2+2" writing I love to read, because it plays out in your head, not on the page.

« Last Edit: March 21, 2011, 10:18 AM by Pitchpatch » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: March 21, 2011, 05:57 PM »

Quote
"Jeff's a tall man who enjoys making others feel small."  So in this moment let's show Jeff making someone feel small. 

That'd be my rule.  You can write something like that only if you dramatize it in the same scene.  Even better if it's immediately dramatized.

Jeff's a tall man who enjoys making others feel small.

He sneers at Bob.

JEFF
Pretty hat, Bob.



It would still play if it's later in the scene, but I think it's lazy writing if it only comes into play later in the script.

Quote
That's the kind of engaging "2+2" writing I love to read, because it plays out in your head, not on the page.

"2+2" is an allusion to Billy Wilder's rules, and I totally agree.  The best parts of a script are created in the reader's head.  That's John McTiernan's secret to exposition:  make the audience curious, then make them piece it together.


P.S. -- please look into installing Scrippets on this site.
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« Reply #4 on: March 22, 2011, 12:15 AM »

Ah, so Andrew Stanton cribbed that '2+2' thing from Wilder?

Good idea about Scrippets.  I'll look into that.  No SMF forum version, but hopefully the phpBB one can be bashed into shape.
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