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Why couldn’t I have written King Of Comedy? I could croak in peace having penned that serious black comedy. Deniro as Rupert Pupkin, a loooooooong way from “you talking to me” Travis Bickle. I doubt this makes many people’s Top 3 Scorsese movies but it makes mine because, I’m mean– who thinks up a story like this? Sandra Bernhard tying up Jerry Lewis with gaffer tape and having an intimate dinner with him?! Tell me you’ve seen it… If not, get on it.
Pupkin’s lifelong dream, doing standup on a Johnny Carson-like Tonight Show leads off my Best Speeches V 1.0. These are classic movie monologues and I’ve accompanied the script with the clip to see the changes made from the original conception. Hope these inspire your own screenplay. Writing that key monologue is a bitch, but if you pull it off, you might just be remembered 100 years from now.
Also here, fav scenes from Amadeus and two different takes on Love and Hate. Vamos!
133 INT: THE STAGE - NIGHT
Finally after what seems like an eternity, PUPKIN emerges,
straightening his jacket a bit and trying to crane the
kinks out of his neck. He is a bit tense but very high
and in full command. As he delivers his monologue, PUPKIN
is more confident, comfortable and self-assured than we
have ever seen him.
Good evening, ladies and gentleman.
Let me introduce myself. My name is
Rupert Pupkin. I was born in Clifton,
New Jersey, which was not, at that
time, a federal offense. (laughter)
Is there anyone here from Clifton?
(silence) Good. We can all relax.
Now, I'd like to begin by saying that
my parents were too poor to afford me
a childhood but the fact is nobody is
allowed to be really poor in Clifton.
Once you fall below eleven thousand
you're exiled to Passaic. My parents
did, in fact, put down the first two
payments on my childhood. Then they
tried to return me to the hospital
as defective. But, like everyone else
I grew up in large part thanks to my
mother. If she was only here today
I'd say, "Hey, mom. What are you
doing here? You've been dead for
nine years?" (laughter) You should
have seen my mother. She was wonderful
-- blonde, beautiful, intelligent,
alcoholic. (laughter) We used to
drink milk together after school.
Mine was homogenized. Hers was loaded.
(laughter) Once she was picked up for
speeding. They clocked her doing fifty
-- in our garage. (laughter) When
they tested her they found that her
alcohol was two per cent blood. They
took away her license and she died
shortly afterwards. We used to joke
together Mom and me, until the tears
would stream down her face and she'd
throw up. (laughter) And who would
clean it up? Not Dad. He was too
busy down at O'Grady's throwing up on
his own. In fact, until I was sixteen,
I thought throwing up was a sign of
maturity. While the other kids were
off in the woods sneaking cigarettes, I
was hiding behind the house with my
fingers down my throat. (laughter)
I never got anywhere until one day,
my father caught me. Just as he was
giving me a final kick in the stomach,
for luck, I managed to heave all
over his new shoes. "That's it,"
I thought. "I've made it. I'm
finally a man!" (laughter) As it
turned out, that was the only time my
father ever paid any real attention
to me. He was usually too busy out
in the park playing ball with my
sister, Rose. And, today thanks to
those many hours of practice, my
sister Rose has grown into a fine man.
(laughter) Me, I wasn't especially
interested in athletics. The only
exercise I ever got was when the
other kids picked on me. They used
to beat me up once a week, usually
Tuesday. After a while, the school
worked it into the curriculum. And,
if you knocked me out, you got extra
credit. (laughter) Except there was
this one kid who was afraid of me. I
kept telling him, "Hit me! Hit me!
What's the matter with you? Don't you
want graduate?" As for me, I was
the only kid in the history of the
school to graduate in traction. The
school nurse tucked my diploma into
my sling. But my only real interest,
right from the beginning, was show
business. Even as a young man, I
began at the very top, collecting
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Remember with screen direction, you want the eye to roll down the page, to make the script a “page turner.” How do you do that? Go vertical. Keep the reader’s eyes moving vertically down the page. For example, from Seven:
He reaches to the nightstand, to a wooden, pyramidical metronome.
He frees the metronome’s weighted swingarm so it moves back and forth. Swings to the left — TICK, swings to the right — TICK. Tick… tick… tick… measured and steady.
Somerset situates on the bed, closes his eyes. Tick… tick… tick. The metronome’s sound competes with the sound of the car alarm. Somerset’s face tightens as he concentrates on the metronome. His eyes close tighter. Tick… tick… tick. The swingarm moves evenly. Somerset’s breathing deepens.
Tick… tick… tick. The car alarm seems quieter.
Tick… tick… tick. Somerset continues his concentration. The metronome’s sound seems louder.
Tick… tick… tick. The sound of the car alarm fades, and is GONE. The metronome is the only sound.
Somerset’s face relaxes as he begins to fall asleep. Tick…tick… tick…
The “tick tick tick” device is terrific. It moves your eye down the page, makes you wonder what’s coming next.
Another method of shaking up the reader visually is…
SINGLE LINE SPACING:
Condensing screen direction offers the reader a more visceral experience, faster, raw and more exciting. While I don’t use this style, it’s totally viable, as here from Alien 3 (Walter Hill & David Giler draft):
26. INT. ASSEMBLY HALL 26
Four stories high.
Minimal electric light.
The assembled prisoners move into position…
Hang from railings
A convict population of 25 men.
She struggles for control.
Her eyes fill with tears.
Eyes brimming, Ripley spots the remains of Newt’s cryotube.
Faceplate is broken.
Probably happened in the crash.
There’s a strange discoloration on the metal below the faceplate.
She leans forward, running her fingers over it…
He hears something in the darkness to his left.
Stopping, he sees a recessed storage area built into the wall of the
A gurgling sound is coming from inside.
Curious, Murphy moves closer.
Stopping before the recessed area, Murphy peers inside.
Sees the Alien —
Still fawn like, but growing
Time stops a second.
Suddenly, the creature — spits acid in Murphy¹s eyes…
Clawing at his face, flesh tom away from his cheeks —
Murphy reels backwards.
Smoke pours through his fingers.
Screaming, he slam s into a wall and staggers backwards into
Which rips him to pieces —
In a blink of an eye, the walls of the Air-duct are splattered
with his remains
The fan CLANGS to a ringing stop as Murphy¹s skin fouls the blade.
SOUNDS/ VOICE OVER VS. OFF SCREEN
Sounds don’t need to be capitalized. Older scripts often did cap them: “The Chihuahua BARKS.” Again, no absolutes. There are scripts littered with WHOOSHES! SLAMS! BAMS! For example, this from Hellboy:
Leaving a trail of blood, Broom crawls to a dead G.I. and grabs a grenade from his belt.
TCHKKK!!! Kroenen extends two gleaming blades from twin steel bands on his wrists and takes on an entire group of soldiers, mowing through them with swords spinning like deadly rotors. The steel chops clean through their weapons.
Broom pulls the pin and throws the grenade at the generator.
CLICK-CLACK!! It wedges itself between two moving tie rods.
Kroenen squeals and — retracting his blades — lunges after it. The gyrating rails slice through his leather jacket. As his fingers reach the grenade, it EXPLODES!!!
Kroenen flies through the air, hitting a stone wall, where two long pieces of shrapnel pin him like an insect.
Another rail plunges — FFFFT!! like a javelin — into the earth right next to MATLIN.
Here, it works. But many scripts don’t have a single FFFFT! This is a stylistic thing. If you want to cap sounds, cap ‘em. Just be consistent with your choice.
I say it every year, THE best single blog for film-makers and screenwriters is nofilmschool.
Only ones in the same ballpark are John August, Indiewire, Script Magazine and Go Into The Story. Do yourself a favor and check them out. Funny name considering the free education they provide. I could spend a full week on that site (and probably have). Here’s a sampler of some of recent articles and links they published that you might want to know about.
From Dan Mirvish, co-founder of Slamdance, comes this funny and excellent article giving some tips for making your own low-budget Indie. Plenty on the business side which is essential. Great, unconventional list…
Use the WGA’s free collaboration agreement on their website. You don’t even have to be a member of the WGA.
Even if you don’t have a contentious relationship with your co-writer, at some point you might. (Think of the Stairway to Heaven lawsuit: your co-writer might die in 30 years and her kids might sue you.)
But more practically, you’ll need a proper Chain of Title if you ever hope to sell the film, since all distributors require Errors and Omissions (E&O) insurance, and all E&O insurance requires a proper Chain of Title.
Find the most annoying person on your crew…and don’t fire that person. You want the crew to hate/cringe/eye-roll them rather than you.
On an indie shoot, be sure to be the first one on set in the morning and last to leave. From time to time, bring donuts (or more efficiently, donut holes) even before craft service gets set up. Wear a role of tape on your belt to say to the crew that you’re willing to work with them, not above them. (Even if you never use it.)”
Who doesn’t need free money? Check out this can’t miss list.
“I need money, you need money, we all need money for our films. Below find all the cash that autumn has to offer. As usual, for scriptwriters, contests reign supreme; documentary is abound with funds for socially relevant stories; and narrative film funds lean heavily on pitches and labs (If you’re a narrative filmmaker, don’t forget to follow this up with our breakdown of where to shoot for the best tax incentives to boot!)
The following grants, labs, and pitch opportunities are organized by deadline from September through early December, and by category for documentaries, narratives and screenwriting. If you’re looking for a head-start on a different granting season, we also have our most recent spring grants here, summer grants here, and winter grants here.”
Today it’s Part 2 of our Great Scenes Mix. There is no bottom to the scenes you nominate could for this category so my criteria was: 1) Clips and scripts. (Find both so you can compare the written page with the movie.) 2) Don’t be freakin’ boring or predictable. (Speaks for itself).
The reason I do clips and scripts is make clear what needs to be obvious to even a break-in screenwriter: The thing is never done. Changes were made– sometimes significant changes– even to great scenes like these.
Hopefully, also, if you haven[t seen these, you’ll be inspired to check out the full movie. Vamos!
Check out the full script of Happiness for the full scene. Top of the movie, she’s breaking up with Jon Lovitz. He’s crushed but still hands her the gift he brought.
(hands her a gift)
Open it up.
(discovers a pewter ashtray)
Oh, but Stuart. This is�oh,
this is beautiful.
Thanks. It's a Gainsevoort
reproduction. Boston, late 1800's.
I sent away for it just after
we had our�first date.
Oh, I just love it. It's a�it's a
Yeah, it is pretty special.
It almost makes me want to start
Look at the bottom.
(examines more closely)
Forty karat gold-plate inlaid base.
Oh, Stuart. Thank you. This really
means something to me. I'll always
treasure it�as a token�
No, you won't.
(retrieves his gift;
a sudden shift in emotion:)
'Cause this is for the girl who
loves me. The girl who cares for me,
for who I am, not what I look like.
I wanted you to know what you'd be
missing. You think I don't appreciate
art. You think I don't understand
fashion. You think I'm not hip.
You think I'm pathetic, a nerd,
a lard-ass fatso. You think I'm shit.
Well, you're wrong. 'Cause I'm
champagne. And you're shit.
And till the day you die, you,
not me, will always be shit.
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Good Reader, welcome back to Script Gods Must Die and the Quixote-esque search for screenwriting knowledge! Spanning the globe to bring you the thrill of screenwriting victory and……oh wait, Millennials won’t get that reference:
The agony of defeat is always instructive. It’s also always funnier when it happens to the other guy. This coming from a guy with a tale or two of his own concerning abject defeat. I really liked this article from Slate by Stephen Harrigan about his reflections on a career writing B-Movies. Here’s a sample:
“I had already written the script so there was nothing for me to do on the set except sit in my special chair and eat red licorice from the craft services table while everyone around me was in urgent motion, often miserably trying to achieve some effect that I had thoughtlessly set down in my screen directions. “A raven lands on a rock” had cost me only a few keystrokes, but that mindless literary flourish translated into thousands of dollars of precious production time as a frustrated raven “wrangler” tried in take after take to make his trained bird hit its mark.
It began to dawn on me during the production of that movie that as much as I yearned to be part of the team, my real role was going to be that of lonely outlier. Screenwriters are less like actual filmmakers than like wedding planners: we work for months or even years making sure everything is ready, every detail is in place, but in the end it’s just not our party.”
From the ever great Indiewire comes another tale of woe. When it comes time to actually shoot your movie, sometimes greatness is just not meant to be. Or, as the final words of Detour instruct us: “Fate, or some mysterious Force, can put the finger on your or me, for no good reason at all.” Here’s such a case, a great article from Scott Beggs on the journey of Max La Bella and his project Demonic. This is what happens when a passion piece goes wrong.
“More than five years later, “Demonic” hasn’t hit theaters. La Bella recently posted a lengthy blog entry titled “The Downside of Up,” chronicling the aggravating ups and downs of the project — including two false starts, losing a director the day before shooting was supposed to commence, an abandoned release date plan meant to avoid a larger film (that ironically ended up not being released either) and a final kiss of domestic death in the form of a foreign release that got “Demonic” onto pirating sites within hours. It became an extended lesson in the high price of staying excited about what you love to do.
Filmmakers rarely talk about their failures, which is largely why La Bella’s screed is so fascinating. It’s also what makes it such a valuable lesson to those aspiring screenwriters and directors who think of getting an agent as crossing the finish line, the blissful delusion that getting past the gatekeepers is the ultimate goal. It’s important that La Bella shared a common story that isn’t commonly shared — his dream job didn’t morph into a nightmare so much as it got replaced by the day-to-day standard operating procedure of mini- and major studio filmmaking.”