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Posts Tagged ‘Last Boy Scout’

Since I just covered descriptive writing for screenwriting in five parts I think it’s important to address the Shane Black factor. When Black came on the scene in the 80s he was the latest hotshot screenwriter to come on the scene.

He quickly had a couple hit movies (Lethal Weapon, Last Boy Scout) and made a ton of money. Along the way he gathered a cult following that continues to this day. One of the things that set Black a part was he was a rule breaker. And the main rule he broke in terms of traditional Hollywood writing is he interjected notes into his scripts. Here’s an example from Lethal Weapon:

EXT. POSH BEVERLY HILLS HOME - TWILIGHT                      

       The kind of house that I’ll buy if this movie is a huge
       hit. Chrome. Glass. Carved wood.

When I was a kid Willie Mays was towards the end of one of the greatest careers in baseball history. It was a career than spanned 22 years. There were many skills that set Willie Mays a part from the crowd, but a lasting image I have was his trademark basket catch.

It was unorthodox way of catching the ball that, of course, many little league and sandlot players tried to emulate. Coaches hated this because it was never considered the most effective way to catch a baseball. I remember one coach saying, “When you are as good as Willie Mays, then you can make basket catches.” (Meaning never.)

And that’s probably the best advice to follow in regard to writing quirky notes in your script like Shane Black was famous for. When you’re the hottest young rising talent in Hollywood you can get by doing things a little more unorthodox.

Here’s how screenwriter and teacher Robin U. Russin tells it:

(Shane Black’s Lethal Weapon is) the one script that broke all the rules and got made anyway. Remember that crucial word: It was the one script that broke all the rules and got made anyway. In the four years I worked as a reader and script analyst, I read perhaps a hundred other scripts that attempted to copy Shane’s flamboyant style, but not a single one of them copied his success. You may want to thank a spouse, a teacher, or a friend, but it will only make your script look unprofessional. Send them a thank you care but leave it off the script.

Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve seen a baseball player since Willie Mays retired in 1973 make a basket catch from a routine fly ball.

But perhaps too much is made of Black’s not so subtle technique. If you go back and read his scripts probably 99% of the script is written in the tradition style as I wrote about this week in descriptive writing Parts 1-5. The bottom line is he wrote a script that did become a big hit and at least put him in position to buy a posh Beverly Hills home. (With Chrome. Glass. Carved wood. I hope.)

Scott W. Smith

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