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Posts Tagged ‘On Film-making’

“One of the classic rules of coincidence is that fate — if it must be present — should always favor the antagonist. If our hero has a gun on the villain and the hero’s gun jams, it’s called drama. If the villain has our hero dead in his sights, and the villain’s gun jams, it’s called a lousy cheat, a not-very-inventive way to sneak the hero out of his predicament.”
Screenwriter Terry Rossio (Shrek, Pirates of the Caribbean)
Wordplay/Column 14

And if you don’t believe Rossio, here’s a similar quote:

“Use coincidence to get characters into trouble, not out of trouble.”
Writer/director Alexander Mackendrick (Sweet Smell of Success)
On Filmmaking (edited by Paul Cronin)
page 41

Note: Both quotes pulled from the 2013 post Screenwriting & Coincidence 2.0.

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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“Exposition is BORING unless it is in the context of some present dramatic tension or crisis. So start with an action that creates tension, then provide the exposition in terms of the present development.”
Writer/director Alexander Mackendrick
On Film-making

William M. Akers in Your Screenplay Sucks! points out a great example of creating tension then giving exposition from Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid when they’re working as payroll guards:

“Their boss gets shot and they hide behind some rocks. They end up in a face off, with Butch and Sundance holding pistols on a double handful of fearsome looking bandits. 

Butch Cassidy: Kid, there’s something I ought to tell you. I never shot anybody before.
Sundance Kid: One hell of a time to tell me!

A great way to reveal significant information, and, in a crowded theater, it got a gigantic laugh.”  

Related posts:

Cary Grant & Exposition (Tip # 38)
Screenwriting & Exposition (Tip #10)
Cody on Expo

Scott W. Smith

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“Is there a confrontation scene? In a well-constructed story the audience is held in expectation of what is called an obligatory scene brought about by a reversal (or indeed, a series of reversals). Note that the obligatory scene, usually the denouement of a story, classically expresses the theme. It is an expression of the story’s central moral, the point expressed as a generalisation as seen in character-in-action. (A good way of defining this moment, in fact many moments in a dramatic narrative, is to ask: ‘Who does what with which to whom and why?’)”
Writer/director Alexander Mackendrick
On Film-making
p
age 21

P.S. Rocky’s a movie that has a natural confrontation scene with the fight between Rocky and Apollo Creed. It may be the longest obligatory scene in cinema since it lasts basically the entire third act. The reversal scene of Rocky realizing he can’t beat the champ is one of the key things that separates Rocky from most films about sports. Robert McKee says that, “Rocky redefined winning.” Rocky decides that if he can just go the distance with the champ—be on his feet when the fight is over—that he will have an internal victory.

“All I wanna do is go the distance. Nobody’s ever gone the distance with Creed, and if I can go that distance, you see, and that bell rings and I’m still standin’, I’m gonna know for the first time in my life, see, that I weren’t just another bum from the neighborhood.”
Rocky written by Sylvester Stallone

And that personal victory, that personal redemption is the theme of Rocky. A theme by the way that never gets old. It could argued that the climax of the obligatory scene in Rocky is when he goes the distance with the champ. He’s proven to himself that he’s not a bum. He’s the flip side of Brando in On the Waterfront—he’s a somebody, a contender.

Related Posts:

Writing from Theme (tip #20)
More Thoughts on Theme
Theme=What Your Movie is Really About
Writing “Rocky”  “I was obsessed with the idea of personal redemption…” Stallone
Insanely Great Endings

Scott W. Smith

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“I believe film more than any other medium, is capable of exploring feelings…Cinema hits us at a gut level—its impact is sensory and physical. Drama has, from its early beginnings, aimed at a catharsis that the ancient Greeks felt would cleanse the human spirit through emotions of pity and terror.”
Writer/director Alexander Mackendrick (The Ladykillers)
On Film-making

Related posts: 40 Days of Emotions

Scott W. Smith

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“What Sandy [Alexander] Mackendrick did for myself and my classmates was he was the first cold water we were hit with and he prepared us how to face the business.”
CalArts film student

“Storytelling without dialogue. It’s the purest form of cinematic storytelling.”
Oscar-winning writer/director Andrew Stanton (Finding Nemo, Wall-E)
(And CalArts Grad)

“One of the tasks of the director as he transfers a screenplay to the medium of the moving-image-with-sound is almost to forget what the characters are saying and reimagine their behavior as being mute, so that all thoughts, feelings and impulses are conveyed to the audience through sound and vision—without speech. There is a curious paradox here, for when a scene has been reconstituted in this fashion the director is often able to reincorporate elements of the original dialogue in ways that make it vastly more effective. Moreover, when a script has been conceived in genuinely cinematic terms, its sparse dialogue is likely to be free of the task of exposition and will consequently be much more expressive.”
Alexander Mackendrick
On Film-making
page 6

A great example of feelings and emotions conveyed without dialogue is in Cast Away (2000) written by William Broyles Jr. and directed by Robert Zemeckis. At a big holiday family dinner, Chuck (Tom Hanks) looks down at his pager and then glances across the table at his girlfriend Kelly (Helen Hunt) and her expression says it all, like—”You’re not going out of town on Christmas?”

It’s a quick moment and a simple one, but one that is so core to the story. Of course, Hanks is later cast away on an island following a plane crash, but there’s a sense that he is casting away the relationship with his girlfriend for his job commitments. The moment is captured in six quick shots without a single spoken word. I couldn’t find the scene online, but it’s a great example of what Mackendrick said about conveying “thoughts, feelings and impulses” without dialogue.

Related posts:
Show, Don’t Tell (Tip #46)
Show, Don’t Tell (Part 2)
DAVID MAMET’S BOLD MEMO (?)  “IF YOU PRETEND THE CHARACTERS CANT SPEAK, AND WRITE A SILENT MOVIE, YOU WILL BE WRITING GREAT DRAMA.”
“Storytelling without Dialogue” (Tip #82) 

Scott W. Smith

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