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Archive for the ‘screenwriting tips’ Category

“To speak technically, photography is the art of writing with light.”
Gerardo Suter 

“I think that you should make as much film as you possibly can —long and short. But I don’t think it’s smart to start screenwriting without at least having carried a camera around. I really think you have to teach yourself to see the world cinematically in order to write cinematically. The thing I think that’s poorly understood about screenwriting from people who aren’t close to the film business is that screenwriters don’t just write the dialogue, we don’t just make up the story and structure the dramatic beats, but we also describe the images on the page which are then transferred into film images by everybody else. And carrying a camera, which I did for many years, really taught me to see the world in terms of photographs. It gave me a leg up in terms of learning to write visually.”
 Writer/director Robin Swicord (The Jane Austen Book Club)
The Dialogue Interview: Learning from the Masters interview with Jay Fernandez  (Part 1)

Related post:

John Ford’s Advice to Spielberg
Descriptive Writing—Part 1 (Tip #22)
Descriptive Writing—Part 2 (Tip #23)
Descriptive Wriitng—Pt. 5, Setting (Tip #26)
10 Cinematography Tips (Roger Deakins)
Cinematography & Emotions

Recommended Book: The Visual Story by Bruce Block

Recommended Website: The American Society of Cinematography (ASC)

P.S. I didn’t attended Vincent Laforet’s Directing Motion Workshop that toured the country the last three months, but the trailer looks great. And it’s available as a digital download and DVD. (I’m trying to get my hands on the material to review.)

Scott W. Smith

 

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“It’s all those movies from my youth that made me want to get into this—all the popcorn movies.  The Die Hards, Empire, the Star Wars films. Those are the films that made me want to be a filmmaker. Recalling those—the excitiment of  being a 10-year-old kid in a theater again, writing for that kid is a big part of doing those kinds of films.”
Writer/director Stuart Beattie

A couple of years ago I worked on a small video project with Deion Sanders who was not just one of those rare athletes who could play both professional football and professional baseball, but he’s the only athlete in the history of civilization who has played in both a World Series and in a Super Bowl.  That is he played two completely different sports at the highest level possible. If anyone earned his nickname it was Prime Time.

A few days ago in my post Simple Stories/Complex Characters (Tip #95) I quoted screenwriter Stuart Beattie saying, “I’m a big fan of simple stories, complex characters. I love when stories get from here to here. I know then I’ll have room for great character stuff to go on.” But in yesterday’s post I wrote how he was one of the credited screenwriters on one of the most successful blockbuster franchises in Hollywood history—Pirates of the Caribbean. The lesson, of course, is that it’s really not an either/or question. The film world is big enough for Blanche DuBois and James Bond.

Human beings have an amazing ability to enjoy contrasting things. Off the top of my head I recall being one of about 100,000 people once at a Bruce Springsteen rock concert at the Los Angeles Coliseum, but also going to a small theater with a couple hundred people to hear a concert with classical guitarist Christopher Parkening. Granted, both concerts had guitars on stage, but they were two totally different experiences. And both enjoyable as I watched talented performers at the top of their fields.

Movies are no different. This year I went to see the intimate character driven Polish film Ida three times in the theater. But that doesn’t mean that the blockbusters Jaws and Raiders of the Lost Ark aren’t some of my favorite all-time movie going experiences.

Stuart Beattie explains the differences between writing a character driven story and a Hollywood blockbuster.

“The big blockbusters—you have to have a certain amount of spectacle, that’s why they’re blockbusters. You have to have that eye candy that people come back to see again, again and again.  So that usually means more complicated plots and just more stuff going on. Car chases, explosions, exciting moments—all that kind stuff. The plot stuff expands and the character stuff shrinks. You don’t have a lot of time to set up characters, you’ve got to get the plot rolling, things like that. Something like Collateral takes its time. In blockbusters you’re hitting [the audience] in their seats, you’ve got to provide those thrills, have them jumping all around. It’s a ride. It’s the difference between a roller coaster ride and a ride in a horse carriage around the park. It’s a different beast completely. Just as fun, just as many challenges [to write], but a completely different beast.”
Stuart Beattie
The Dialogue Interview: Learning from the Masters 
interview with Mike De Luca

Joss Whedon wrote and directed the blockbuster The Avengers and then turned around and wrote the script and directed Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Jon Favreau directed the blockbuster Iron Man and this year has a hit with the character driven Chef, which is closer in scope to the first indie film he wrote (Swingers). Swingers in turn was directed by Doug Liman who went on to direct The Bourne Identity.  All great examples of writers and directors at the highest level who’ve made character driven stories and blockbusters—and done it at the highest level.

But if there’s a Deion Sanders of filmmaking my vote goes to director Steven Spielberg who made Jurassic Park and Schindler’s List back to back—and that was just a couple of years after he directed The Color Purple and Empire of the Sun back to back. Spielberg is Prime Time+Oscar TimeX3.

P.S. A good example of a complex story and simple characters is Edge of Tomorrow. Maybe a little too complex. As I walked out of the theater it was interesting listening to various audience members trying to explain the film to each other (especially the ending). While the $178 million film is doing fine globally ($341 million) one of the reasons I think it was a disappointment in the States is the story—despite solid reviews and being full of spectacle (and exposition)was a little too complex to get good world of mouth advertising.

But you’ve got to give Hollywood credit for producing such an ambitious none-sequel project.

Scott W. Smith

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“I like simple stories and complex characters.”
Oscar-winning screenwriter Billy Bob Thornton (Sling Blade)
Filmmaker Fills Simple Stories with Complex Folks/Roger Ebert

“I’m a big fan of simple stories, complex characters. I love when stories get from here to here. I know then I’ll have room for great character stuff to go on.”
Screenwriter Stuart Beattie (Collateral)

In Stuart Beattie’s screenplay for Collateral (2014) the story is simple, a hit man catches a cab at night with the goal to kill five people before he catches a morning flight out of LAX. That simplicity allowed Beattie to add some complexity to the characters played by Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx. (Cruise’s character is a hit man with an appreciation and knowledge of jazz music.)

“[The jazz scene] is modeled after two favorite scenes of mine, True Romance with Christopher Walken and Dennis Hopper…and the Luc Besson movie La Femme Nikita when he takes her to the restaurant and you think, oh great—he’s finally taking her out. And here’s the gun, here are the people. And the whole thing changes on a dime. I love those kind of scenes and I wanted that kind of scene in Collateral.
Stuart Beattie
The Dialogue: Learning from the Masters (Part 1) interview with Mike De Luca

It’s worth noting that there are echoes of the jazz scene in the 1993 movie Schindler’s List when Amon Goeth (known as the “Butcher of Plaszow” and played by Ralph Fiennes) who appreciated classical music yet had no problem standing on his balcony and casually shooting a couple of Jewish workers in the forced labor camp. It may not be historically accurate, but it’s great cinema in conveying that one can be educated and sophisticated musically —and still be a savage killer.

Screenwriter Steve Zillian, who won an Oscar for writing Schindler’s List, is admired by Beattie. Chances are good that Schindler’s List is in what Beattie calls his “personal reference library.”

“I have a library of probably 100 scripts that are my favorite scripts and I’m going going back and referring to them again and again. How do they do that? How’s that set-up? How’s that written?”
Stuart Beattie

When you watch the below clips in light of the above scene from Collateral keep in mind these five quotes:

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”—Painter Salvador Dalí

”Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination.”—Filmmaker Jim Jarmusch

“How does an artist look at the world? Well, first she asks herself, ‘What’s worth stealing?’ And second, she moves on to the next thing.”—Author Austin Kleon

“I think it’s fine for young (filmmakers) to out and out rip off people who come before them because you always make it your own.”
Writer/director Francis Ford Coppola

“Lesser artists borrow, great artists steal.”
Composer/ pianist Igor Stravinsky

P.S. Sometimes writers don’t sample or crib other writers, but their own work. Beattie points out that Lawrence Kasdan used two similar love scenes in both of his scripts for Raiders of the Lost Ark and Continental Divide.

Related Posts:

Inspiration Flying Under the Radar
“Steal Like An Artist”
“Impact. Energy. Emotion.” Nice quote from Mike Corrado (from a CreativeLive Rock and Roll Photography class) that describes the jazz scene in Collateral quite well.
Simplicity in Screenwriting (Tip #27) “Let this be our first lesson: Movie stories are usually simple…..Write simple stories and complex characters.”—Paul Lucey
Writing Good Bad Guys (Tip #85)

Scott W. Smith

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“The thing to do is just keep writing. Show it to your girlfriend, boyfriend, or your wife, or whomever, and see if they like it. Then show it to your friends and see if they like it. You keep accumulating these little victories along the way. Pretty soon you’re showing it to an agent, and your agents showing it to a producer, and a producer’s showing it to a director, the director’s showing it to an audience, and it’s just an escalation of these little victories that you have to go through to get to where you’re a successful writer. It’s not a fun process. It’s like homework. I don’t think you can really leapfrog from writing a screenplay to the big premiere with the klieg lights, which I think is the image that ever writer has.”
Screenwriter Jeffrey Boam (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
The New Screenwriter Looks at the New Screenwriter by William Froug
page 179

Related post:
Finding Your Voice “For me, it was a matter of years of trying to develop my writing in the same way that some people spend years learning to play the violin.” —
Writer/director Frank Darabont

Scott W. Smith

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“My first eight to 10 scripts were pretty horrendous, but I stayed at it, stayed at it, and stayed at it, until I eventually found a voice and a subject like Rocky that people were interested in.”
Writer, director, actor Sylvester Stallone

Yesterday’s post was a Christopher Lockhart quote about how nobody who reads scripts cares about screenwriting rules—only a great script. Or as Lockhart says in other places “the right script.” I’ve heard others say there are no rules—but break them at your own peril. And, “There are no rules, only guidelines.”  And yet another common phrase is,”know the rules before you break them.”

Is there any way to bring a synthesis to these somewhat opposing views?

I look at writers and filmmakers like I do athletes. Being tall is an advantage in basketball, but not in horseracing. And even within the same sport like American football each position has different requirements. Having the ability to catch a football is a basic requirement of a wide receiver but not expected at all of a left guard playing offense. One has the gift of catching, the other of blocking. There are hall of fame players who wouldn’t even make the team if they had to line up at a position that didn’t play up their strengths.

Screenwriters tend to have strengths in one or two particular genres. And even working screenwriters have a mixed writer’s grab bag of some of the following traits in their writing; great characters, solid story structure, snappy dialogue, humorous dialogue, minimal dialogue, emotional writing, theme, visual storytelling, etc, etc.

Maybe the problem with the word “rules” is we’ve all read and/or written scripts that have followed basic accepted rules of screenwriting and are lifeless. Most if not all script readers say that they only recommend between 2-10% of the scripts they read. But I honestly think that has less to do with rules, and more with talent and how it’s developed.

You may have heard the story about how Michael Jordan,  one of the greatest professional basketball players of all time, was once cut from his high school basketball team.  He had talent, but it needed to be developed. He had to hone what worked with his skill set. He had to play the game a little better.

So while Lockhart says there are no rules, if you listen his whole one hour Final Draft webinar you will find plenty of suggestions based on his years of experience that will help develop your talent and hone your skill set. Here’s some bullet points that jumped out at me. If we don’t call them rules, maybe we can just call them realities.

(Note these are my quick notes from the Q&A with Lockhart not direct quotes. Any errors are mine.)

—Active portagonist: The script revolves around this character. The one who makes everything happen and who moves the story forward. Is in almost every scene. And has to be involved in the climax of the story. Good example: Taken.

—Emotional range: Lead actors like to play roles with a wide range of emotions.

8 to 10 pages: No set page count when he knows a script is working, but if it hasn’t happened by page 8-10 experience tells him that it’s probably not going to happen.

Visual conflict: Watch the movie Insomnia (2002) 

—Starting Out: Find a manager willing to work with new writers. Know that every writer with an agent, at one time didn’t have an agent. For an unknown to get recognized with an agency like CAA/WME you need to bring some kind of heat to the table, like having a film at Sundance or be a Nicoll finalist. An agent wants to represent you when you have something to sell (or ready for assignments), a manager will help you get to that place.

—One right script. It may take you ten scripts to write that one right script, but you only need one to open doors. It may not get made, but solid scripts always advance a writer’s career.

—Pitching stories: 
Getting in the room to pitch a story is reserved for experienced writers.

—Screenwriting contests: The majority of contests don’t open doors, but they give writers goals and deadlines which are helpful.

—High concept: Best chance for new writers to get traction.

—Query letters/emails: A query from Canada can land on the right desk and get noticed. Never put the word “query” in subject of email—just the script title. Put your logline at the top of the email or letter. Example: “Hi Chris, I have a new horror thriller it’s about a psychiatrist who struggles to help a young boy overcome a bizarre affliction—the boy sees dead people. It’s called the Sixth Sense.”

—Movies vs. TV: In movies the story is in the foreground and in TV the characters are in the foreground.

—Hustle: If you don’t want to hustle then the film business may not be the best career for you. Writing is only about 50% of the job. It’s not rude to ask someone to read your script at a party, standing in line, walking down the street—that’s your job. Just be respectful. When networking realize that people want to work with people they like and want to be around. (i.e. Don’t be a dick.)

—Voice: Not about the words you use, but how you tell the story.

—Page count: In theory, 100-120 pages is the norm in Hollywood.

—Living in LA: You can write from anywhere, but you have to be able to take meetings in LA. (And if you’re Joe Blow/Jo Blow from Idaho traveling to LA comes out of your pocket.) If you do live in Idaho concentrate on writing the right script that will get traction. (That’s what Diablo Cody did with Juno when living in Minneapolis.)  Kevin Fox (Queens of Supreme, Lie to Me) lives in New jersey.

—Treatments: Joe Blows in Idaho don’t sell treatments.

—Pitchfests: Good place if you have the money to get learning experience (but the chances of actually selling a pitch are slim because the people you’re pitching to tend to be from the lowest level of the places they represent).

—Read newly sold scripts: It’s helpful to get your hands on scripts that just sold and see how it creates the movie in your head without any preconceived notion of actors. Understand why that script sold.

Related posts:

Christopher Lockhart (Q&A Part 1)
Christopher Lockhart (Q&A Part 2)
Christopher Lockhart (Q&A Part 3)
Christopher Lockhart (Q&A Part 4)
Christopher Lockhart (Q&A Part 5)

Scott W. Smith

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“About rule breaking—there are no rules. Do whatever you have to do—it doesn’t matter. Nobody cares. Listen to me, I’ve read 30,000 screenplays, I work at WME, and I’m telling you anybody in this business who reads scripts doesn’t given a flying f*#k about the rules. All they care about is a really great script. And as a writer you have to do what you have to do in order to communicate your story to the reader.”
WME Story Editor Christopher Lockhart
Final Draft Webinar

Related post:
Screenwriting’s One Unbreakable Rule
Everything I Learned in Film School (Tip #1)
“Everything Was Perfect…”
Neil Simon on Conflict
Getting Your Script Read (Tip #51) Another Lockhart quote.

Scott W. Smith

 

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“Remember that scripts are not so much written as rewritten and rewritten and rewritten (Mark Twain’s rule for writing: ‘Apply seat of pants to chair’). During a period of nearly ten years when I was under contract to a British studio, first as a contract screenwriter, then later as a writer/director, a pattern emerged. Every screenplay that finally became a film was rewritten a minimum of five and a maximum of seven times. There was no explicit rule about this, nobody could explain why it became standard practice—it just worked out that way. Another noticeable pattern was that many subjects did not even reach screenplay form at all and were scrapped after the first draft (while a script that required too many re-writes was usually abandoned after the seventh draft.) So plunge ahead regardless. Don’t wait to get it right, just get it written.”
Writer/Director Alexander Mackendrick (Sweet Smell of Success)
On Film-making edited by Paul Cronin

Related links:
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 1)
Writing & Rewriting “Pretty Woman” (Part 2)
Coppola and Rewriting
Screenwriting the Pixar Way (Part 1)

Scott W. Smith

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My January 1 post Write 2 or 3 Scripts This Year was based on a quote by Christopher Lockhart on how to improve your craft. Today is a nice bookend to that post adding a little advice on one way to chip away at that goal.

“I have a rule: I try to open my script file daily, I say to myself, I must write at least one line. It doesn’t feel hard or overwhelming. And, strangely, when I do open my file, my brain will often find itself dictating a stew of words or concepts that I had no previous conscious sense would come out of me.”
Producer/writer/director Pen Densham (Moll Flanders)
Riding the Alligator

Here’s the trailer to Moll Flanders, a movie based on the Daniel Defoe novel, that Densham wrote and directed. It stars Robin Wright and Morgan Freeman.

P.S. A couple of years ago I did an interview with Densham but never got around to transcribing it. So I’ll make that a point to do this year along with the interview I did with writer.director Dale Lautner (My Cousin Vinny). I’m looking at using something like Dragon Diction to help with those interviews and ones in the future. If you have a system for streamlining an audio interview into a text please pass that info on to me.

Scott W. Smith

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The Twilight Zone was in peril of not being renewed, season after season. It was not a hit, rating-wise; succès d’estime, yes but not the sort of series anyone could have predicted would be running thirty years later. [Rod] Serling’s skill as a writer has a lot to do with that…also his compassion for the human race as he saw it around him, from day to day. His optimism about the human condition led to stories that made one feel good about the race and its chances for emotional triumph. That, well told, will always sell.”
Producer Buck Houghton (The Twilight Zone)
What a Producer Does (First published in 1991)

P.S. Look at this year’s Best Picture Oscar nominations and look back on past Oscar-winning Best Pictures and see how many end showing an “emotional triumph.” Not all, but it’s an interesting gauge. And even in death there can be an emotional triumph—Gladiator, Titanic, Braveheart.

Bonus:
“The Twilight Zone at its best is better than anything else I’ve ever seen on television…Walking Distance is maybe the show’s best episode.”
Producer/Writer/director J.J. Abrams (LOST)
Time/ Top 10 Twilight Zone Episodes

Related Posts:
The Twilight Zone Secrets
Rod Serling’s Binghamton Roots
Rod Serling’s Ohio Epiphany
40 Days of Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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Warning: Even though I’m dealing with some older films, I still feel I need to mention that there are some spoilers today.

“A good ending must be decisive, set-up, and inevitable—but nonetheless unexpected.”
Screenwriter Terry Rossio
Wordplayer, The Big Finish

“Endings, frankly, are a bitch.”
Two-time Oscar winning screenwriter William Goldman
Adventures in the Screen Trade

In yesterday’s post Chaplin on Clichés I mentioned the only four choices to conclude your screenplay were “a happy ending, a sad ending, an ambiguous ending, or an ironic ending.” And while that’s true of probably 99.9% of all films I realized that there is another rarely used option. Just as there are cross-genre movies, I believe there are a few movies that have mixed endings.

First let’s recap the cross or mixed genre angle. A good example would be The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) —it’s a horror film, a comedy, and a musical. Quentin Tarantino’s vast film knowledge may make him the master of cross breeding genres. Django Unchained is part historical drama, part western, part comedy, part action, part love story—part something else when Tarantino drops in the ’70s Jim Croce song in at a pivotal point in the film which he also directed.

Tarantino pulled it off and walked away with the Oscar for writing Django Unchained. So mixing things up can be good.

But it’s easier to mix genres than endings. In the Robert Zemeckis directed film Cast Away Tom Hanks stars as a Fed Ex executive who becomes a modern-day Robinson Crusoe when a plane crash leaves him stranded on a deserted island. It’s the film that came to mind as a film with a mix of endings. (Maybe it doesn’t—maybe it’s more an example of a couple false endings.) First let me define what I mean by happy, sad, ironic and ambiguous endings:

Happy: The Graduate, The Shawshank Redemption, It’s a Wonderful Life: Up endings where the guy gets the girl, there’s freedom in paradise, the shark’s killed, and/or order restored.
Sad: The Perfect Storm, Chinatown, Buried: Down endings, often where a key protagonist dies. And in some cases with injustice or evil prevailing. Sometimes what’s stated is just the hard realities of life, other times leaning toward nihilism (life has no meaning) as director Ingmar Bergam once said,” We are trapped in the senseless illusion of human history and we realize at the end that all hope is gone.” (Often found in art  house and foreign films). And yet a sad or down ending can be like a greek tragedy serving as a cautionary tale like Death of a Salesman (Don’t spend your life climbing the wrong ladder).
Ironic: Rocky, Toy Story 3, Silence of the Lambs: This is the core of many great endings. It’s where the hero doesn’t get their intended goal, but gains something greater. Or they get their goal, but lose something else. Rocky loses the fight, but gets the girl and gains self-esteem. Clarice gets the serial killer Buffalo Bill, but psychopath Hannibal escapes. Jack saves Rose’s life in Titanic, but sacrifces his life in the process.
Ambiguous: Memento, The Wrestler, 2001 A Space Odyssey: The “chose your own adventure” of the group. You decide what happened to the characters.  Filmmakers of ambiguous endings tend to say things like, “I think it’s best if audiences bring their own conclusion to what happened to the main characters.” Many times the audiences just walks out confused.  (Tough endings at the box office, but in a few cases where audiences go back to a film again hoping to figure the film  can result in a healthy box office. But most times audiences are still just as confused as they were at the ending to the TV show LOST.)

So how was Cast Away a mixed ending? (At least the movie could have ended at any of these points.)
Happy: Tom Hanks’ character survives years on the deserted island…
Sad:  But discovers his fiancé is now married with children (Bummer).
Ironic: But it turns out that they still have deep feelings for each other and end up kissing. (This whole sequence is filled with emotions and very well done.) Sitting in his old jeep he tells his one time fiancé (Helen Hunt) that’s “It’s time to go home.” And just we think they’re going to ride off into the sunset (even though it’s at night and raining),  he pulls into her driveway and sends her back to her replacement family. They love each other but they can’t be together.  His goal of reuniting with the woman he loves is crushed. But he’s grateful for that love because that hope of being with her kept him alive all those years he fought for survival on the deserted island.
Ambiguous: Now what’s he going to do? Where’s he going to go? There’s a blimp of hope that he’ll end up with the artist who the audience was introduced to at the beginning of the film because he has a package to deliver to her at the end of the film. But she’s not home so he leaves the package and a note. So where’s he going to go now? His jeep sits at a four-way intersection in the middle of remote Texas and this is what happens:

The angel wings on the back of the truck tell Hanks that’s the artist he just dropped the package off for. I believe most people in the audience are begging Hanks to at least explore that option. Zemeckis, Boyles, Hanks, and every executive at Twentieth Century Fox had to know that’s what the audience wanted. They may have even shot the scene where after some contemplation he at least heads his Jeep down the dirt road toward the angel wing women’s house. I think that’s how Chaplin would have ended it.

“I’m not afraid of doing a cliché, if it’s right. We don’t wade through our existence with any sort of originality. We all live and die and eat three meals a day, and fall in and out of love, and the rest of it. So people say, that’s been done before. So what? In avoiding clichés I think one can become dull.”
Charlie Chaplin

Which way does he go? This is the last sentence from Boyles’ screenplay from Cast Away—The Shooting Script:

“It doesn’t really matter which way he goes. At some point in life’s grand journey you just have to let go of the oars and have faith. His new life begins…now. The end is just the beginning.”

The last shot fades out on a close-up of Hanks contemplating where to go next. My guess is Zemeckis and Broyles decided end on ambiguity–to avoid the happy ending cliché. I thought they already did a great job avoiding cliché by having his fiancé be married.

Cast Away screenwriter William Broyles  Jr. later said, “Chucks’s first words of dialogue in the movie is ‘time.’ Time runs his life and for six years time ran our lives as we made this movie. His last words are ‘thank you,’ an expression of gratitude which defines his transformation.” Intellectually I think he’s 100% correct. Dramatically he has taken the Hanks character on a classic journey where he returned a better man.  But emotionally is where ambiguous endings often falls short.

Would Hanks at least getting in his Jeep and heading down the dirt road toward the artist have been, to borrow Michael Arndt’s words, an Insanely Great Ending? (Insanely Great = positive & surprising and meaningful.) We’ll never know. But I did find a version of the script (marked 3rd draft) where Hanks’ character ends up in a remote area talking to (ironically) a Fed Ex driver named Erica.

                     ERICA
          What brings you out to the sticks?

                     CHUCK
          Had a package to deliver.

                     ERICA
          You?  Personally?

                     CHUCK
          I had it on the island with me.

                     ERICA
          Must be a story there.

There's a connection building here, effortlessly.

EXT.  BEACH - MOMENTS LATER

We are wide on the beach, watching the truck move along the
water, kicking up wisps of sand.

                     CHUCK (V.O.)
          Yeah, a long one.

                     ERICA (V.O.)
          I've got lots of time.

                     CHUCK (V.O.)
          So do I.

The truck goes down the beach and then turns inland, away
from the ocean.  Away from all that.

                     CHUCK (V.O.)
          So do I.

And we pull back, taking in the sweep of the beach, the
estuaries, and the green forest stretching back into America.

The end is the beginning.

A little less ambiguous.  It took six years to make Cast Away and it would be fascinating to learn how the filmmakers wrestled with the ending during that time. 
Update 1/6/14: I wondered if I could find any movie critics addressing the Cast Away ending and found this Stephen Holden quote from the NY Times: 
"Because the conflict between romantic convention and the movie's angst is never resolved, 'Cast Away' leaves us hanging. But that final, lurking ambiguity is a small price to pay for the primal force of what has come before."

P.S. I believe it's on the 20th Anniversary DVD of The Shawshank Redemption where writer/director Frank Darabont said he wanted to end Shawshank simply by having the Morgan Freeman character being freed from prison and riding off on a bus. Fade to black. Ambiguous. But the producers pushed for him to at least shoot a sequence where Red and Andy are reunited on a beautiful island paradise. The ending the audience yearned for. The ending that was set-up in the script. Darabont basically said that if they would have used his ambiguous ending Shawshank would not be the highly regarded film it is today and he wouldn't be doing a 2oth anniversary commentary.  

Related post: Insanley Great Endings (Part 2) Michale Ardndt makes the case for knowing your ending first.

Scott  W. Smith

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