Want to hear the voice of Chicago?
Here’s the greatest scene you’ve never seen in a movie, because it isn’t from a screenplay at all.
It’s a call from the current resident of Littleton, Colorado Federal Minimum Security prison and former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich. On the other end is former Barack Obama Chief of Staff and current Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. Talk about ships that pass in the night!
Enjoy this RAHM-ROD DIALOGUE and savor all that is Chicago!
This is not fiction. This is a 100% REAL LIFE conversation, secretly taped, the transcript of which was played at the Blagojevich trial.
This conversation is already part of public lore. Here’s an animated version of this conversation:
Look at the dynamic of this conversation and marvel, Good Reader. Here you will find a lesson in how to write any scene in any genre of any screenplay.
I’m not talking about the Mamet f-bombs that rain down– though it might be some kind of record, even for Chicago politicos.
No, I’m talking about the power dynamic here. I’m talking about beats and who owns them.
Two characters, both of whom want something very badly. The scene itself is warfare, both characters attempting to manipulate and control the other for their own gain.
In any scene that you draw, you should do several things. 1-The scene exists because it must. It advances character or plot. You know ahead of time what the scene is there for, what it must accomplish. Get into the scene late, accomplish what you have to accomplish, and get out.
The best way to accomplish what the scene must is to understand character motivation. What exactly do the characters want at this moment in the story? What do they want from each other? What will they do to get there?
A beat, by definition, is the smallest actable moment. Every scene has beats. If the scene has two or more characters you need to figure out who owns the beat. Every scene, at its essence, is one character attempting to impose their will on the other…to control, manipulate, or dominate the other. Sometimes this is done with subtlety; sometimes it’s done with a silver Thor hammer. Other times it’s done with Chicago-style politics and Mametesque f-bombs.
What do the characters want in this scene?
Here, Rod calls Rahm. Rod wants to get paid. Rahm takes the call out of professional courtesy. Rahm, at the start, does not control the beat. Rod wants to get paid and pushes the notion of selling a Senate seat. From that point the beat shifts. Rahm now wants something too…he wants off the phone. He wants distance between himself and Rod. Rod doesn’t much care, pushing Rahm’s buttons. Rahm pushes back hard, the f-bombs start to drop. This is two Type A bull rams bashing each other. Who owns the beat in the end? Hard to say, both are attempting to control things, though Rahm might get the decision, ignoring Rod’s threats and hanging up the phone with the classic “Have a great life, Fatso!”
When you write your scripts remember that each scene must accomplish what it was intended to accomplish. Get in late, get out early, and do what you need to do. Within the context of the scene there are characters each of which needs or wants something. It is the battle for beat ownership that supplies any movie with much of its tension or comedy or horror.
A simple but important lesson brought to you by the best in the business of politics—Chicago style!