Want to write great screenplays? Read them. That logic is too facile– like saying everyone who pays for classes at Second City will end up on Saturday Night Live, or win an Oscar like Adam McKay. The walls of Second City are filled with famous faces, but for every one of them who “made it”, there are thousands who did not. Same with reading screenplays. I won’t guarantee that you’ll end up signing with William Morris Endeavor if you do so, but you’ll improve. That I’d bet on. And if you’re reading screenplays, why not read an Oscar winner? Full Birdman script is here.
I usually spread the wealth on these greatest scenes posts but there are a dozen scenes from Birdman which are worthy of a script/clip look. Let’s study how this movie looks on the page…
*p.s.: Sorry for the script scrunching, nothing to be done about it.
Emma Stone and Michael Keaton go off on what it means to be relevant in the era of Facebook:
Listen to me. I’m trying to do something
This is not important.
It’s important to me! Alright? Maybe not to
you, or your cynical playmates whose sole
ambition is to end up going viral and who,
by the way, will only be remembered as the
generation that finally stopped talking to
one another. But to me… To me… This is–
God. This is my career, this is my chance to do
some work that actually means something.
Means something to who?
You had a career before the third comic book movie,
before people began to forget who was inside the bird
costume. You’re doing a play based on a book that was
written 60 years ago, for a thousand rich, old white people
whose only real concern is gonna be where they go to have
their cake and coffee when it’s over. Nobody gives a shit but you.
And let’s face it, Dad, it’s not for the sake of art. It’s because
you just want to feel relevant again. Well, there’s a whole
world out there where people fight to be relevant every day.
And you act like it doesn’t even exist! Things are happening
in a place that you willfully ignore, a place that has already
forgotten you. I mean who are you? You hate bloggers. You
make fun of twitter. You don’t even have a Facebook page.
You’re the one who doesn’t exist. You’re doing this because you’re
scared to death, like the rest of us, that you don’t matter.
And you know what? You’re right. You don’t. It’s not important.
You’re not important. Get used to it.
Silence. Riggan seems devastated, and Sam can see that.
THE ACTOR AND THE REVIEWER
Here, Michael Keaton goes off on THE Broadway reviewer, who one can close his show with a single bad review, and who is about to do so. The film clip has several changes all of which I think are for the better. Check it out…
I’m going to destroy your play.
You haven’t even seen it. I don’t– Did I
do something to offend you?
As a matter of fact you did. You took up
space in a theater which otherwise might
have been used on something worthwhile.
But you don’t even know if it’s–
That’s true. I haven’t read a word of it,
or even seen a preview, but after the
opening tomorrow I’m going to turn in the
worst review anybody has ever read. And I’m
going to close your play. Would you like to
know why? Because I hate you. And everyone
you represent. Entitled. Spoiled. Selfish.
Children. Blissfully untrained, unversed
and unprepared to even attempt real art.
Handing each other awards for cartoons and
pornography. Measuring your worth in
weekends Well, this is the theater, and
you don’t get to come in here and pretend
you can write, direct and act in your own
propaganda piece without going through me
first. So, break a leg.
Tabitha goes back to her writing. Riggan sits for a moment.
What has to happen in someone’s life,
for them to end up becoming a critic?
She looks up at him.
Whatcha writin’? You reviewin’ a play? Was
it good? Bad? Did you even see it? Lemme
He snatches the notebook from her.
I will call the police.
No you won’t. Let’s read your review!
(He scans the notebook.)
“Callow”. A label. “Lackluster”. Label.
“Marginalia”. Sounds like you need
penicillin to clear that up. None the
(Looks to Tabitha.)
All labels. You’re a lazy fucker
(Looks one last time at
Tabitha wants to reach for the notebook, but her pride won’t
let her. Riggan takes a flower from a vase at the center of the
You know what this is? You don’t, do
you? You can’t even see it if you don’t
label it. You mistake those sounds in
your head for true knowledge.
Are you finished?
(Wrinkling one of the pages.)
Nothin’ about intention, structure,
technique. Just crappy opinions backed
up by crappy comparisons. You’re
incapable of writing more than a couple
of paragraphs, and you risk nothing of
(He tears out the page and tosses
Well, I’m an actor and this play has
cost me everything. So you can take
your cowardly, malicious, shittily
written reviews and shove them up
your… (Showing her the wrinkled
page.) …wrinkly, tight ass.
Beautiful, poetic sequence. In and out of Riggan’s head as we do for the whole movie. The lady turns out to be just a voice and we don’t see the crowd below, the action with the cabbie changes. A few lines cut, not needed. Others shifted. Working POV for your own movie? Here’s the model to look at…compare the two versions…
And as the camera pulls away, we discover Birdman is gone and
Riggan is standing on the ledge of a tall building. The camera
tilts down and we see that more people have gathered around,
and more cars has stopped, and they all point at Riggan,
worried about the situation.
A guy wearing shorts, a Bob Marley t-shirt and a robe opens his
window, one floor below Riggan, and looks up at him.
Dude, what are you doing?
Riggan looks down at the people on the street far below.
You okay, buddy? Do you want me to call someone?
We pan to a lady on her balcony filming Riggan with her phone.
Is this for real, or you’re shooting a film?
The lady looks around but sees nothing.
Oh, you people are full of shit.
She goes into her apartment.
I’m calling 911.
The guy goes inside his apartment.
One more time…
Now, from the door of the rooftop, a good neighbor calmly
Hi, sir. Can I help you? You should be careful.
Sorry. Can’t talk. I’m late.
Some underscoring music begins to sound. The neighbor is now
close to him and helps Riggan step down from the edge on to the
floor of the rooftop.
Are you alright? Do you want me to
call someone? Do you know where to go?
Riggan closes his eyes for a moment as the camera moves slowly
toward him. He opens his eyes. The music begins to swell. Riggan
stands up straight and proud, and in a voice that sounds like
Yes. I know where to go.
He turns and begins to run on the rooftop. The music is rousing.
As he runs, he holds out his arms, spreading them wide. The
camera runs behind him, until suddenly…
Riggan jumps, and the camera jumps after him. He rapidly
falls toward the street, toward the asphalt. But in his face
there is no fear. No. He spreads his arms again and…
He takes flight, soaring high over Manhattan. The music becomes
epic. There is something beautiful about this broken man flying
like a superhero. We fly next to him, and we can see below the
spectacular sight that is Manhattan, until…
EXT. THEATER – CONTINUOUS
…he finally lands on 45th street and calmly approaches the
theater. An Usher acknowledges him with a look of surprise.