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Great Scenes- Mix 2
Feb 21st, 2017 by paul peditto


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.

	For me?

(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
	collector's item.

	Yeah, it is pretty special.

	It almost makes me want to start
	smoking again!

	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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Screenwriting Links 12
Feb 14th, 2017 by paul peditto

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.”

indiewire logo 2


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.”


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The Micro-Budget Screenplay: Preparation
Feb 4th, 2017 by paul peditto

Chat Poster V2

My new Script Magazine article is up. If you’re writing a micro-budget screenplay, maybe check this one out. It details some pitfalls along the path of my making CHAT (photo above) and gives some insight on the earliest formats your script can take in the outlining stage.

Here’s a piece of it:

“Glance at the Go Into The Story Spec Script List for 2015 and you’ll see 55 specs sold last year. Then add up the screenplays registered with the Writer’s Guild that year– shall we say, conservatively, 50,000? About 1,000 to 1, though I’ve seen the odds– especially for those without an agent or manager– at much worse. Then look at the WGA 2016 Annual Report to see that for all the tens upon tens of thousands of folks writing screenplays last year, exactly 1,799 got paid. For every spec screenplay writer you see on breaking through with a magical story of success, you could point to a thousand dreams that didn’t pan out.

Jez Peditto, so you’re saying I should stop dreaming of being a screenwriter? I should stop writing… because the odds are against it?

Script EXTRA: 11 Ways to Develop Your Screenwriting Hustle

Not at all. I’m talking today about the need for re-calibration. A mental rearrangement of priorities. From Old School to New. The need to know yourself…and your project.

When you write a screenplay and ignore budgetary considerations, you guarantee needing other people’s money.

Needing other people’s money cedes power. It guarantees the need of L.A. and the necessity of the L.A. mechanism. It’s why you should consider writing with micro-budget in mind. When you write for cost you increase your odds of seeing the script happen. Because you control the mechanism.

The real question should be: How do I write a movie for the absolute lowest price possible without compromising the vision of my film?”

Read the rest of the article here!

script mag 2

Great Scenes: Birdman
Jan 30th, 2017 by paul peditto


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
that’s important…
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.

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Voice Over VS. Off Screen
Jan 22nd, 2017 by paul peditto

voice over

This post is dedicated to folks who get confused on when to use Voice Over and when to use Off Screen.


“… and God help you if you use voiceover in your work, my friends. God help you! It’s flaccid, sloppy writing. Any idiot can write voice-over narration to explain the thoughts of a character. You must present the internal conflicts of your character in action.”

This speech by the Robert McKee character in Adaptation is one of the funniest scenes ever about that heavily-debated topic in screenwriting: Voice Over! The very sound of it (along with its sister-device flashback) strikes fear!  Horror stories of those foolish writers/directors who used voice over, and whose careers were never to be seen again!

Film is a visual medium. Too often we’re waiting for the narrator’s voice to end or start the scene. Or we’re listening to the narrator describe what we’re plainly seeing. Is there a tried and true test for the need of Voice Over? Not really. Common sense will have to do: Is there no visual way through action for you to introduce absolutely essential information that advances plot or character? No? Well then, it’s in. If it has to be Voice Over, then it’s Voice Over. And that’s ok!

Like with everything else in the screenwriting universe, there are no absolutes. I’ll bet you can name half a dozen movies that use voice over to devastating effect. Want a couple examples? Here’s one, from Forrest Gump:


A black and white photo of General Nathan Bedford Forrest.

The photo turns into live action as the General dons a hooded sheet over his head.

The General is in full Ku Klux Klan garb, including his horse.

The General rides off, followed by a large group of Klan members dressed in full uniform.


She said we was related to him in some way. And, what he did was, he started up this club called the Ku Klux Klan. They’d all dress up in their robes and their bed sheets and act like a bunch of ghosts or spooks or something. They’d even put bed sheets on their horses and ride around. And anyway, that’s how I got my name. Forrest Gump.

Signature voice. You can’t imagine the movie without it. In fact, the movie couldn’t function without it. Read the script. There is no way the same story could be told without it, which is the measure of the need of V.O. There are many haters of Voice Over. I am not one of them. Here’s another example, from V For Vendetta:

In the darkness, we hear a voice, a woman’s voice.  Her name is Evey.


“Remember, remember, the fifth of November, the gunpowder treason and plot.  I know of now reason why the gunpowder treason should ever be forgot.”

Her voice has a strength that is metered by a calmness, a deep centered peace that we can feel.


Those were almost the very first words he spoke to me and, in a way, that is where this story began, four hundred years ago, in a cellar beneath the Houses of Parliament.

In the darkness, we find a lantern.  Guy Fawkes, a dangerous man who wears a goatee, is struggling with a wheelbarrow stacked with barrels of gunpowder.


In 1605, Guy Fawkes attempted to blow up the Houses of Parliament.

The wheelbarrow bumps over the heavy stone mortar of the cellar floor.  From the dark depths, we hear the sound of dogs.


He was caught in the cellars with enough gunpowder to level most of London.

Guy sees lanterns coming from both sides.  He tries to run as the dogs reach him first.  He grabs for his sword as dozens of pole axes pin him against the tunnel’s stone wall.

Concerning Voice Overs, the Script Gods Must Die rule applies: No other visual way through action for you to introduce absolutely essential information that advances plot or character? No? Then, damn the torpedoes and use Voice Over!


Off-Screen (O.S.) differs from Voice Over in that the character is present,  just not seen.

Here’s an example from Taxi Driver:

Dishelved middle-aged New Yorker looks up from the desk. We CUT IN to ongoing conversation between the middle-aged PERSONNEL OFFICER and a YOUNG MAN standing in front on his desk.

The young man is TRAVIS BICKLE. He wears his jeans, boots and Army jacket. He takes a drag off his unfiltered cigarette.

The PERSONNEL OFFICER is beat and exhausted: he arrives at work exhausted. TRAVIS is something else again. His intense steely gaze is enough to jar even the PERSONNEL OFFICER out of his workaday boredom.


No trouble with the Hack Bureau?


No Sir.


Got your license?




So why do you want to be a taxi driver?


I can’t sleep nights.


There’s porno theatres for that.


I know. I tried that.

Paul Schrader gives us the setting, using O.S. so that we hear the full conversation, but don’t see who talks until halfway into the scene. Here’s another excellent O.S. sequence, from X-Men:


A woman’s voice holds over the proceedings.  It is the voice of JEAN GREY – whom we will soon meet. As she is speaking, we come to a large screen television at one end of the room.


In every organism on Earth there exists a mutator gene – the X-factor, as it has come to be known.  It is the  basic building block of evolution -the reason we have evolved from homo habilus…

FOOTAGE REFLECTS THE VARIOUS STAGES OF HUMAN EVOLUTION.  Accompanying it is a GRAPH with a DIAGONAL LINE indicating the ascent of the “human being” as we know it. Accompanying the graph are evolving images of the “evolution of man.”


to homo erectus, to homo sapiens,  Neanderthals, and, finally, to homo  sapiens.

The animated demo on the screen zooms in on the lowest order of human depicted – homo habilus – a primitive, ape- like humanoid covered in hair.  As he is singled out, the terrain of his time appears, along with the harsh signs of his winter.


Taking its cues from the climate, terrain, various sources of nourishment, the mutator gene tells the body when it needs to change to  adapt to a new environment.  The  process is subtle, normally taking thousands of years.

As the graphic changes and depicts WARMER CLIMATE, the HAIR STARTS TO DISAPPEAR ON THE MAN’S BODY — gradually evolving into the human we now know as ourselves.

Now the terrain is modern, the weather pleasant.  The image pulls back and places this man back in line at the front of evolution.


Only in the last few thousand years did mankind begin to make clothes for himself, build shelters, use heat and grow food in large quantities.  With this man-made environment remaining relatively stable, the X-factor became dormant.

QUICK SHOTS: early huts, early clothing; then early homes, later homes, air conditioning, cars, modern high- rises, etc.



Until now.

Keep in mind with production drafts, you’ll sometimes find screenwriters directing like above (QUICK SHOTS, PULL BACK WIDER.) You get scripts that look like this, from Leprechaun:

As he lays there, breathing heavily… then we begin to HEAR STRANGE “IRISH MUSIC” coming from the crate. Then his MOTHER’S VOICE begins to sing the Irish song “Danny Boy” in the most beautiful voice we’ve ever heard…

LEAH’S VOICE: (singing “Danny Boy”) Oh, Danny Boy… the Saints they are a’calling…

Now we CRANE BACK… and…


“YUMMY, YUMMY, YUMMY I GOT LOVE IN MY TUMMY” 70’s rock and roll song blasting out of:


that is playing the song that brings back memories of a summer in the seventies.

ON A BEAT-UP OLD JEEP, open top, traveling down a country road. A beautiful morning. And the SONG CONTINUES as we roll credits. The driver of the jeep, J.D. REDING, is singing along with the song.

Do not direct your spec script! When you give us camera angles you take us out of the reading experience. You also encroach on the director’s domain. Don’t do it.

Good Reader, all my advice is geared toward helping you find the money to make your movie. Of course if you’ve already got the money, forget everything I’ve said. I mean it. Go ahead and write in camera angles; write in every SMASH CUT and CRANE shot; while you’re at it, write the script in 9 fonts, or in pink Crayola crayon. You’ve got the money!


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