1. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    Scripts written by the director him/herself vs scripts written by a collaboration screenwriter

    Discussion in 'Scripts' started by Malisky, Jan 29, 2021.

    I've come to realise that most scripts I've read so far, are written by the director of the respective script as well. There are a few points in these scripts that come into contrast with what I was taught about how to handle writing a script in school, meaning a script meant to be sent to a production company as a screenplay writer or as well as the director. I find myself slightly confused.

    There are some aspects that even the screenplay writer has to direct audibly or visually after all in writing, since the final destination, the whole reason for his/her piece of writing afterall, is to be audio-visually depicted. Right? So, where does one draw a line to this?

    I'll highlight my questions by using "Desperado", written, produced and directed by Robert Rodriguez as reference, since it's the latest script I've been reading. Here's a link for your facilitation: https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Desperado.pdf

    and here are the two opening vids in order to compare the writing to the final cut:





    This will get you up to page 14, ending approximately at the end of the opening credits.

    If you compare the two, you'll find that the differences are minimal. It's almost a script followed loyally, with some minimal improvisations by the characters that are expected anyways (they color the characters, for example the Barman that spits his toothpick on Buscemi) and some actions that although altered (one I found is that in the script Buscemi said he crawled towards the Stranger after the bar massacre occurred - that part and dialogue got completely deleted - , while in the film he's just stunt in place and the Stranger pays attention to him, also points a gun to his face) I believe they don't alter the overall plot or mood the least bit and make more sense in a way. (If he was realistically stunt, I doubt he'd crawl towards the Mariachi at all. It wouldn't make sense, you get me)?

    Anyhow, as for the writing form, I got some questions. I loved his writing actually and wouldn't have a problem myself in the position of a presumed director to read this script, although it has clear technical notes to it, but that's my personal take on this. If I decided, for example, to direct his script myself and disagreed with some of his takes, I'd simply skip them and handle them in a way I'd see more suitable. After all, it's the director's job to do the decoupage of the script, but his technical notes didn't bother me the least bit. They actually helped me to "see" his story.

    Now, I'll get right to the points:

    1) Right from the start of the script, we get technical aspects:

    "P.O.V. of BUSCEMI bursting through the doorway into the bowels of the stench filled TARASCO BAR Buscemi, an anglo character about 28 years and not in the best physical shape, rambles towards the nearest barstool, which seems a mile away in this forced perspective."

    We get a "P.O.V" and a "forced perspective". I did this a lot in my scripts too, but then again... they were directed at me from me. Nobody else, except me and the actors read them. I wrote parts of the decoupage as I went for these projects. When I was writing a script though, which was meant to be taken just as a script for script value, I didn't. Not at all. I was told that it wasn't my place as a script writer to give directions. I have to say that writing was more challenging this way.

    2) Page two:


    "Short Bartender knows his booze is cheap, but these undeserved compliments disturb him."


    I love this kind of writing in a scene actually, since it gives the overall mood and reaction of a character without having to spell each character's action out, set in stone. It also gives the actor a better idea of the character his playing and leaves him space to act it out his own way. My question here, is how much of these kind of instances can you have in a script? It's something that "tells" in writing form rather than "shows". The "showing" comes at filming the scene when the actor presumably acts this information out. Is there a common balance or preference or is this solely based on the screenwriters decision and voice? How often is it acceptable to delve into a character's mind in a script and for what other purposes?

    3) Page 3. Can you even do this? I know that you can put the way one speaks for example in parenthesis (whispers, tired, wide-eyed, etc) but isn't this... different? More personalised. Furthermore, it doesn't depicts the way he says what he says, rather than gives the overall scene mood his talking creates to the rest of the characters. Is this conventional?

    "BUSCEMl
    (hammering the-point home)
    - I'm sitting there_.

    Short Bartender's not even wondering when the story's going to start, he's pouring himself another warm one.

    BUSCEMI
    (beating a dead horse)
    So ... I'm sitting there ..."

    4) More directions:

    "CUT TO:

    POV of unseen STRANGER.. opening the bar door, just as we saw Buscemi do in the opening shot. We hear Buscemi's voice over this dreamy, slow motion flashback."

    "We see the shadow CRAWL bad..."

    and more importantly:

    Buscemi has his audience back. He acts the scene out now, and we intercut between the flashback and Buscemi's live show.

    I need to pause here for a minute. I've been having a massive headache about how to write a scene with intercutting between two scenes, so please do tell me your opinion about this as I have no clue about what's the common way to go about it. Is this common?

    If you are somewhat experienced in script writing, please do read this script up to page 14 and tell me your take upon it. Whichever observation you have to make apart from the points I made are greatly welcomed, since I might be missing stuff. I'm really interested in this. I'm writing a script that's meant to work solely as a script and be judged by script writing value and I'm not sure after all, how "personal" I can get with it. For example, is there another way, more legitimate, to write intercuts in scenes? Whatever observations you make with this script as reference, will be greatly appreciated, as well as suggesting me other movie scripts to read that are taken for their script writing value, preferably ones that aren't written by the one who directed them.

    Thanks! :)
     
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  2. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    There's 2 things to note about this before going deeper at another time:

    One: Rodriguez, and other writer/directors, often write the script to shoot themselves, and therefore don't have to stick to the general Spec script (Speculative script) style. They just write it for themselves and the people they'r going to work with. Writer-directors often skip the spec script stage because they're not out there trying to sell it to a producer/ director.

    Two: What I've found is that a large proportion of publicly available scripts are shooting scripts, not spec scripts. These are the scripts edited by the director to include camera and audio directions, along with visual and audio effects, to guide the various departments. It mis-represents what most scripts would have looked like in the spec script stage.

    Bonus: Rodriguez is also famous for being a bit of a rogue in the film industry. An industry that really really really doesn't like people doing things their own way.

    You can have fun in your scripts, and make them enjoyable to read. I like it when they have a bit of flavour and wit. But technical details and directions really should be left out, despite what you see in these examples.

    If you're going to write between two scenes, just use INTERCUT: and END INTERCUT:

    But you should only really do that if there's no other way to tell the story, as generally intercutting is a directorial or editing choice, not a writing one.

    Screenwriters need to avoid wanting to be directors.
     
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  3. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    That's kind of what I've been speculating about the scripts I've read so far. Almost every single one of the ones I found where written by the director and even the ones that weren't where heavily directed, which confuses me. Do you have a public source of scripts in their spec script stage? I'd dive right into it. Or even a good book about script writing I could read, would be fine. An analytical one.

    I think I got what you mean by that. At some other point I'm gonna write a brief example of such a scene just to make sure I got this right. As a director wannabe myself, I find it almost impossible to narrate a "film story" without indicating such an important take, for it makes a huge difference from my pov at least, how the story is interpreted with and without intercutting. Worlds apart. But perhaps that's my own personal directing impulse. Idk. I need to read more spec scripts and compare them to their films to figure this out.

    Thanks for your reply. Much appreciated!
     
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  4. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    I'll find some examples. In the meantime, if you are more leaning towards writer / director, I'll look for some examples that relate, because as per your question they are a bit different to purely writer spec scripts.
     
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  5. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    Thanks! I'm more interested in screenplay writers mostly this time around, not directors, but that's fine too. I'm just trying to write a script not supposed to be directed by me. That's what I mean.
     
  6. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    I've tried to pick some good examples by writer only drafts that are not shooting scripts. All are from a great archive, daily script. But be wary of the site as they have a lot of shooting and production drafts mixed in.

    Being John Malkovich
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/beingjohnmalkovich.html

    An early draft of Bladerunner:
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Blade-runner_early.html
    Compared to the shooting draft:
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/blade-runner_shooting.html

    Dances with Wolves
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/Dances_With_Wolves.pdf

    Deliverance
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/deliverance.pdf

    Fight Club - This might be a production draft as there are camera directions and highlighting props.
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/fightclub_2_98.html

    Raiders of the lost Ark
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/RaidersoftheLostArk.pdf

    LA Confidential
    https://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/ellay-confidential_early.html
     
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  7. Selbbin

    Selbbin The Moderating Cat Staff Contributor

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    Here. This is an excerpt from Raiders of the Lost Ark. The writers don't try and explain how it's shot. They don't care. They simply describe what needs to be seen. How is the Director's problem.

    INT. THE TABERNACLE

    Belloq has the ivory rod inserted in the notch under the lid of the Ark. He utters a short phrase in Hebrew and begins to press down on his end of the rod. The lid of the Ark begins to lift. It’s difficult work. Belloq puts his whole weight into one big press on his end and the lid opens two feet. Inside the Ark of the Covenant is a preview of the end of the world. A light so bright, a power so fearsome, a charge so jolting, that there is nothing in our world to compare to it. It’s as though this magnificent golden box has been gathering electric energy for three thousand years, waiting for just this crack of the lid to release it all in one fast, cleansing explosion of pure force. Blinding arcs of light shoot out across the Tabernacle instantly killing all the Nazis inside and turning the white silk to flame. But it is Belloq in his obsession who takes the full blast. His whole body seems lit by a million volt current and, for a moment, his complete form is white, then blue, then maybe green, but it is hard to tell because our eyes are blinded now too. Two aspects of this ghastly, beautiful display are somehow communicated in the chaos, although the communication is subliminal. First, that Belloq, in the instant of his destruction, has experienced some kind of sublime, transcendental knowledge. If a death’s-head can smile and look satisfied, that is how Belloq’s incandescent face would be described. Secondly, this event is accomplished by a sound like no other. A sound so intense and so odd and so haunting that the suggestible among us might imagine it were the whisper of God.
     
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  8. Malisky

    Malisky Fortune cookie Contributor

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    Thanks @Selbbin . It's indeed a script I was looking for. Already read it. Sorry I haven't replied. Now I'm reading "Parasite", which is also very well written although it was written by the director himself. He keeps the form undirected.
     

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