Reader Question: Is any exposition scene a “crock of sh*t”?

Responding to a 2005 David Mamet memo.

A reader question via email from Lee Gabel:

I have a question about exposition in regards to the David Mamet note.

“ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER “AS YOU KNOW”, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.”

Does that mean use of exposition in any way is a “crock of shit”? I agree it goes against the “show, don’t tell” rule.

Lee is referring to the 2005 David Mamet letter that went around town recently again — I posted on it here.

Four things. First, we have to grant a certain amount of hyperbole on Mamet’s part as he’s trying to drive home a point to a group of writers on a TV series. From the rest of his letter, it’s apparent that the “penguins” (Mamet’s assignation for TV network execs) complained about wanting more exposition and the thrust of Mamet’s entire letter is somehow work around those complaints — don’t let the bureaucrats squash good drama.

Second, I think it’s probably safe to say that it is impossible to tell a story without using exposition. In fact, exposition is critically important. However, poor handling of exposition can be lethal to creating drama and sustaining a story’s pace.

Third, exposition can also make for riveting drama. I need no further evidence than this scene in perhaps my favorite movie The Shawshank Redemption, the last moments between Andy (Tim Robbins) and Red (Morgan Freeman) before Andy’s escape:

EXT — PRISON YARD — DAY (1966)

Red finds Andy sitting in the shadow of the high stone wall,
poking listlessly through the dust for small pebbles. Red
waits for some acknowledgment. Andy doesn’t even look up.
Red hunkers down and joins him. Nothing is said for the
longest time. And then, softly:

ANDY
My wife used to say I’m a hard man
to know. Like a closed book.
Complained about it all the time.
(pause)
She was beautiful. I loved her. But
I guess I couldn’t show it enough.
(softly)
I killed her, Red.

Andy finally glances to Red, seeking a reaction. Silence.

ANDY
I didn’t pull the trigger. But I
drove her away. That’s why she
died. Because of me, the way I am.

RED
That don’t make you a murderer. Bad
husband, maybe.

Andy smiles faintly in spite of himself. Red gives his
shoulder a squeeze.

RED
Feel bad about it if you want. But
you didn’t pull the trigger.

ANDY
No. I didn’t. Someone else did, and
I wound up here. Bad luck, I guess.

RED
Bad luck? Jesus.

ANDY
It floats around. Has to land on
somebody. Say a storm comes
through. Some folks sit in their
living rooms and enjoy the rain.
The house next door gets torn out
of the ground and smashed flat. It
was my turn, that’s all. I was in
the path of the tornado.
(softly)
I just had no idea the storm would
go on as long as it has.
(glances to him)
Think you’ll ever get out of here?

RED
Sure. When I got a long white beard
and about three marbles left
rolling around upstairs.

ANDY
Tell you where I’d go. Zihuatanejo.

RED
Zihuatanejo?

ANDY
Mexico. Little place right on the
Pacific. You know what the Mexicans
say about the Pacific? They say it
has no memory. That’s where I’d
like to finish out my life, Red. A
warm place with no memory. Open a
little hotel right on the beach.
Buy some worthless old boat and fix
it up like new. Take my guests out
charter fishing.
(beat)
You know, a place like that, I’d
need a man who can get things.

Red stares at Andy, laughs.

RED
Jesus, Andy. I couldn’t hack it on
the outside. Been in here too long.
I’m an institutional man now. Like
old Brooks Hatlen was.

ANDY
You underestimate yourself.

RED
Bullshit. In here I’m the guy who
can get it for you. Out there, all
you need are Yellow Pages. I
wouldn’t know where to begin.
(derisive snort)
Pacific Ocean? Hell. Like to scare
me to death, somethin’ that big.

ANDY
Not me. I didn’t shoot my wife and
I didn’t shoot her lover, and
whatever mistakes I made I’ve paid
for and then some. That hotel and
that boat…I don’t think it’s too
much to want. To look at the stars
just after sunset. Touch the sand.
Wade in the water. Feel free.

RED
Goddamn it, Andy, stop! Don’t do
that to yourself! Talking shitty
pipedreams! Mexico’s down there,
and you’re in here, and that’s the
way it is!

ANDY
You’re right. It’s down there, and
I’m in here. I guess it comes down
to a simple choice, really. Get
busy living or get busy dying.

Red snaps a look. What the hell does that mean? Andy rises and
walks away. Red lunges to his feet.

RED
Andy?

ANDY
(turns back)
Red, if you ever get out of here,
do me a favor. There’s this big
hayfield up near Buxton. You know
where Buxton is?

RED
(nods)
Lots of hayfields there.

ANDY
One in particular. Got a long rock
wall with a big oak at the north
end. Like something out of a Robert
Frost poem. It’s where I asked my
wife to marry me. We’d gone for a
picnic. We made love under that
tree. I asked and she said yes.
(beat)
Promise me, Red. If you ever get
out, find that spot. In the base of
that wall you’ll find a rock that
has no earthly business in a Maine
hayfield. A piece of black volcanic
glass. You’ll find something buried
under it I want you to have.

RED
What? What’s buried there?

ANDY
You’ll just have to pry up that
rock and see.

Andy turns and walks away.

One of the cardinal rules of screenwriting I learned early on was get your exposition out of the way in Act One and avoid it like hell in Act Three. Yet screenwriter-director Frank Darabont literally stops the movie — right at the beginning of Act Three — for a 4+ minute scene, filled with exposition:

  • Andy describes his wife
  • He confesses to ‘killing’ her
  • He tells Red where he’d go if he ever gets out of prison (“Zihuatanjo”)
  • He talks about what the Mexicans say about the Pacific
  • He tells Red how he’d buy a hotel on the beach there
  • He tells Red how he get an old boat, fix it up, and do charter fishing
  • He tells Red about a hayfield near Buxton
  • He tells Red how he proposed to his wife after making love to her in that field
  • He tells Red to go there — if he ever gets out of prison — and look for a piece of volcanic glass
  • He tells Red there is something buried there he wants Red to have.

All of that is exposition. Facts, data, information. And yet it’s one of the most riveting scenes in the movie because (A) we don’t know what the hell Andy is talking about and (B) we think recent events might have sent him over the edge to insanity. So while most of the time, writing good exposition scenes is a struggle, the fact is it can be done — and done well.

Fourth, to be precise, Mamet isn’t talking about exposition per se. His focus is narrower:

“ANY TIME ANY CHARACTER IS SAYING TO ANOTHER ‘AS YOU KNOW’, THAT IS, TELLING ANOTHER CHARACTER WHAT YOU, THE WRITER, NEED THE AUDIENCE TO KNOW, THE SCENE IS A CROCK OF SHIT.”

“Telling another character what you, the writer, need the audience to know.” That isn’t so much about exposition, but rather what I call writer’s convenience. It’s when a writer has a character say or do something simply because it’s the easiest way for the writer to advance the plot. That’s not just sloppy, it demeans the character. It’s you — the writer — speaking through the character rather than the character acting of their own free will. It’s the character meeting your needs — as a writer — rather than the character meeting their needs.

And yes, more often than not, I would imagine that scene would end up being a crock of shit.

So does writing exposition necessarily result in a “crock of shit?” No. Exposition scenes may be hard to write / make dramatic, but as indicated with Shawshank, exposition can also make for a great scene.

However at all costs you must avoid writer’s convenience. If you’ve written a scene where you have a character doing or saying something strictly because of your need to get through the scene and move the plot forward, then rewrite that scene. As screenwriters, we can all strive do better than that.

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Reader Question: Is any exposition scene a “crock of sh*t”? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

A scientific deep dive into the Marvel movies’ most hilarious trope: the shirtless scene

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Whether it’s Iron Man fiddling with his arc reactor or Star-Lord getting hosed down, you can almost always count on the hero of any given Marvel movie to lose his shirt — it’s practically a trope.

At this point —17 films and nine years into the Marvel Cinematic Universe — the “shirtless superhero” scene is up there with Stan Lee cameos, post-credits scenes, and 30something blond men named Chris in terms of reliable franchise staples. 

Such serious commitment on Marvel’s part, then, would seem to warrant some serious analysis on our part. And we do mean “serious.” This isn’t just an excuse for bald-faced objectification — goodness, no.  Read more…

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Reader Question: Is it necessary to have scene description before dialogue?

Another supposed screenwriting ‘rule’ bites the dust!

From Jake Gott:

Hey Scott, I have a question about scene openings.

When you start a new scene, is it necessary to say what the characters were doing or can you jump right into the dialogue?

Example:

INT. OFFICE — DAY

Jeff and Meg are talking.

JEFF: Blah blah.

MEG: Blah?

— — — — — — — — — — — — —

Would it be needed in that instance? Thanks Scott, keep up the good work.

Technically per the old school way of doing things, I learned you should never have a primary slug line without some accompanying scene description before moving into dialogue. Frankly I don’t know where that came from, but I seem to recall having seen it in more than one format guide / discussion.

However there is the theory of screenplay format, then there is the reality of actual screenplays written by actual Hollywood screenwriters where you see things like this (from The Shawshank Redemption):

INT — HEYWOOD’S CELL — NIGHT (1947)

HEYWOOD
AND IT’S FAT-ASS BY A NOSE.

No scene description after a slug line before a line of dialogue.

“Fat-Ass” in ‘The Shawshank Redemption’

To me, it’s far better to approach the question from the perspective of storytelling: Does the moment require scene description? It makes no sense to insert a line of scene description like the one in your example — “Jeff and Meg are talking” — which adds nothing to the narrative: we don’t need a line describing them talking because the scene actually shows them talking. So from a pure storytelling point of view, I would say do not make up and insert a line of scene description simply to fulfill some supposed arbitrary guideline, especially if that line isn’t necessary.

However if you do what I do — consistently use primary slug lines to signify a new scene — you will almost invariably need to set the stage in order to bring the reader ‘into’ the scene. Again from The Shawshank Redemption:

INT — SHOWERS — DAY (1947)

Shower heads mounted in bare concrete. Andy showers with a
dozen or more men. No modesty here. At least the water is good
and hot, soothing his tortured muscles.

Bogs looms from the billowing steam, smiling, checking Andy up
and down. Rooster and PETE appear from the sides. The Sisters.

BOGS
You’re some sweet punk. You been
broke in yet?

Or here:

INT — SHAWSHANK HEARINGS ROOM — DAY (1967)

Red enters, sits. 20 years older than when we first saw him.

MAN #1
Your file says you’ve served forty
years of a life sentence. You feel
you’ve been rehabilitated?

Red who’s just about to tell the truth… and win parole.

A new scene involves a shift in time and place, therefore the writer needs to provide a context for what transpires including the dialogue.

Finally there’s this: If a writer includes a lifeless, unnecessary line of scene description only to fulfill an obligation to some strict format guideline, they are in effect breaking a much more important screenwriting credo:

Never be boring!

Far better to focus on making each line of scene description entertaining, visual, active, and compelling.

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Reader Question: Is it necessary to have scene description before dialogue? was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Watch: 5 Tips for Making a Perfect Action Scene

Action is a movie staple, but how do you do it right?

If you want to know how a clock works, take it apart. You look at the way one piece fits into another, the way the gears turn in relation to each other, how the parts become the whole. Then, whether you can put the same clock back together is irrelevant. You’ve learned something. Films work the same way. If you want to know how they work, take them apart, scene by scene, shot by shot, line by line.

Patrick Willems’s new video essay does just that with an action-packed scene from the short film The Wrong Trousers, in which the beloved Wallace and Gromit chase a duck named Feathers, who’s stolen some very valuable diamonds, to answer a question that’s probably on many young filmmakers’ minds constantly: how do you make a great action scene? Check out the video and read our top five takeaways below.

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‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ Scene Delivers the Final Commands of Emperor Palpatine

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Cinematic Scene

One month before Star Wars: The Last Jedi continues the story of the Skywalker saga, the canon of the Star Wars universe will expand with a new story that fills in the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.

Star Wars Battlefront II will include a new campaign mode that tells a canon story in the Star Wars universe from the perspetive of Iden Versio, the leader of a band of Imperial troops known as Inferno Squadron tasked with carrying out the last orders of Emperor Palpatine, left behind in the event of his death. A new cinematic scene from Star Wars Battlefront II shows how Iden Versio receives her orders from the deceased Emperor in the wake of the destruction of the second Death Star.

Watch the Star Wars Battlefront 2 cinematic scene released on the PlayStation YouTube channel:

The clip comes from the aforementioned single player campaign where Iden Versio is at the center of the 30-year quest to avenge the death of the Emperor, continuing to wage war against the New Republic, even in the wake of a crucial loss for the Empire. As you can see, despite the fact that Emperor Palpatine is dead, he has a surrogate hologram (of which there are probably several dispatched) delivering his final orders for the Empire, under the name Operation Cinder.

If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it was a major part of the story in the Marvel Comics series Journey to the Force Awakens: Shattered Empire. The operation calls upon Imperial troops to create chaos on planets across the galaxy by striking them with artificially created environmental disasters in the wake of Emperor Palpatine’s death.

During this scene, we learn that Iden Versio’s father is an Imperial officer, one who has been entrusted with information that the Inferno Squad leader is not yet privy to. In fact, when Versio asks about her next target, the surrogate hologram gets a little aggressive and refuses to indulge information to her. Perhaps this lack of transparency from a hologram of a dead man will create some dissension among the Imperial forces. Maybe even Versio herself will end up turning against the Empire, refusing to take any more orders not give to her by a living commander, turning her from a villain into a hero.

We’ll find out when Star Wars: Battlefront II arrives on PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on November 17, 2017.

The post ‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ Scene Delivers the Final Commands of Emperor Palpatine appeared first on /Film.


/Film

Scene Description Spotlight: “The Deer Hunter”

During the Vietnam War, two American prisoners are forced to play Russian roulette.

I can still remember seeing The Deer Hunter for the first time. I was living in Aspen, Colorado. Had a rare night off from playing music. Came out of the theater just gutted by the movie — and in particular the two Russian roulette scenes. Michael (Robert DeNiro), Steven (John Savage), and Nick (Christopher Walken) are three long-time buddies and factory workers from Pennsylvania. They enlist in the Army and find themselves fighting in Vietnam. Captured by the Viet Cong, they have been abused and beaten. Steven (named Sal in the script) is in bad shape. Michael (named Merle in the script) has to convince Nick to do something seemingly insane, as you will see as the scene unfolds:

EXT. CLEARING IN THE JUNGLE — THE “PITS” — DAY

SAL has absolutely no comprehension of what is about to
happen to him. His eyes are dreamy, far away, as if he had
mentally transported himself to some distant place. There are
great gashes in his head from the blows he has received and
as he stands waiting in the pouring rain he looks exactly
like a very small child who has experienced some terrible
confusion.

Suddenly the GUARD standing beside SAL wrenches him around.

We see the pit now, CLOSE UP. There are four bloated CORPSES
floating in the muck.

We SAL’S FACE, CLOSE UP. He gives a CRY and tries to turn
away.

We see the GUARDS pick SAL up, SCREAMING. We see the SPLASH
as SAL hits the water and then we see him surface between the
bloated CORPSES, STILL SCREAMING, paddling desperately and
trying to find something solid to hod him up.
EXT. CLEARING IN THE JUNGLE — WAITING PRISONERS — DAY

NICK stands motionless, stunned, listening to SAL’S SCREAMS.
MERLE has his attention focused on the GUARD IN CHARGE and
when he glances in their direction MERLE slugs NICK in the
stomach and begins beating him furiously to the ground. NICK
struggles to his feet. MERLE attacks him again and now, as
the GUARD IN CHARGE comes over to see what’s going on, MERLE
begins hopping up and down, pointing at NICK, pointing at the
revolver in the GUARD’S hand and screaming.

MERLE
Him and me!!! Him and me!!!

The GUARDS look at each other, interested.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Him and me, goddamn it! Him and me!

INT. THATCHED HUT — HEAVY RAIN — DAY

MERLE and NICK sit facing one another across the rose
patterned kitchen table. The GUARDS are all grinning and even
the SOUTH VIETNAMESE are watching with grim fascination. NICK
has the revolver. He is trembling visibly. Already MERLE has
managed to draw the GUARDS in closer and as NICK spins the
cylinder and cocks the hammer MERLE jumps up and begins
pounding on the table.

MERLE
This is it, motherfuckers! Now he’s
going to do it! Watch! You watch!

NICK almost loses what little control is left and his hand
begins shaking violently.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Look at him! See! This is it and he
knows it!

Side bets begin changing hands.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Last chance to lose your money
there, guys. Goodbye money! Hurry,
hurry. Here he goes!

NICK puts the revolver against his temple and pulls the
trigger. There is a dull CLICK.

NICK puts the revolver back on the table. His hand is shaking
so badly it falls with a clunk. MERLE grabs it, spins it,
sticks it to his temple and CLICKS OUT, talking all the time:

MERLE (CONT’D)
This is stupid! You understand
stupid? On and on! At this rate
we’ll still be here tomorrow!
(throws the revolver on
the table)
Wait a minute. I know! Hey, I got
it. More! Put in more! You
understand more? More! More
bullets!
(he mimes with his
fingers)
Three bullets! You understand
three? That way BLAM! BOOM!

MERLE hops up and down, laughing maniacally.

MERLE (CONT’D)
KA-POWIE!!! BA-ROOM!!!… ’Cause I
want that bastard! Him I want boom!
Him or me!!!

The GUARD IN CHARGE looks at his COMPANIONS. They all begin
shouting for him to go ahead. The GUARD IN CHARGE purses his
lips, as if imitating a general coming to a decision, and
then nods his assent. The GUARDS all howl. MERLE joins right
in.

MERLE (CONT’D)
He’s terrific! Great fucking guy!

The GUARD IN CHARGE takes the revolver, opens the cylinder
and begins sticking in two more cartridges.

MERLE (CONT’D)
KA-POW!!! BA-ROOMIE!!!

MERLE hops up and down again, then screams at NICK, jabbing
his finger at him, as if in fury.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Both of us may have to pull on
this, so get your shit in fuckin’
shape!!!
(to the GUARDS)
Him or me!!! Now we got it, him or
me!!!
(he rubs his hands and
sits back down)
Place your bets, motherfuckers! Now
we’re going! Now we got a game!

The GUARD IN CHARGE places the revolver on the table, spins
it.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Watch! Now watch! He’s going to get
it. And then KA-POW! BA-ROOMIE!!!

The muzzle stops pointing at MERLE. MERLE scowls, looks over
at the GUARD IN CHARGE. The GUARD IN CHARGE has lifted the
barrel of his AK 47 and is watching him with caution. The
OTHER GUARDS, who are totally caught up in the game, are
yelling and shouting.

MERLE
You guys think I’m in trouble,
right?

MERLE picks up the revolver, spins the cylinder, cocks it…

MERLE (CONT’D)
No way! Never!!!
(he begins to chant)
MERLE IS MIGHTY! — HA!
MERLE IS STRONG! — HA!
MERLE IS MAGIC! — HA!
MERLE LIVES LONG!
Lemme hear it. Come on,
motherfuckers, lemme hear it!

MERLE starts it again. The GUARDS who are bett ing on him
JOIN IN:

MERLE (CONT’D)
(with GUARDS)
MERLE IS MIGHTY! — HA!
MERLE IS STRONG! — HA!
MERLE IS MAGIC! — HA!
MERLE LIVES LONG!

MERLE takes a glance at the GUARD IN CHARGE again. The GUARD
IN CHARGE is still eyeing him with caution.

MERLE places the revolver to his temple… and CLICKS into an
empty chamber.

MERLE (CONT’D)
See! Nothing to it.

He pushes the gun across to NICK. Then he stabs his finger at
him, screaming again, as if in a fit of rage.

MERLE (CONT’D)
You got an empty chamber and it’s
in your mind! Just put that empty
chamber in the gun!

NICK looks down at the revolver and picks it up. He stares at
MERLE for a moment. Then he spins the cylinder, cocks the
hammer, Puts it to his head… and CLICKS into an empty
chamber.

The GUARDS let out expressions of disbelief. Those betting on
NICK begin taunting those betting on MERLE.

MERLE sits motionless, as if stunned, as if utterly defeated,
his brow furrowed in a mighty frown.

NICK pushes the revolver across the table. His face is
twitching but he gives the gesture a certain flair, as if
throwing back a challenge.

MERLE stares at the revolver — stares at it with an
expression of utter gloom. Then he reaches out, takes the
revolver in his hand and pulls it toward him, as if he no
longer possessed the strength to pick it up.

MERLE (CONT’D)
(gloom)
Who’s for Merle?
(he thumps his fist on the
table)
Is anyone for Merle???

MERLE roams a glowering eve over the watching GUARDS, as if
suddenly discovering himself among traitors. Slowly, he
pushes himself to his feet. The gun is still on the table,
still in his right hand, and as he gets up he lets his body
sag over it.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Who here is for Merle…?

There is absolute silence now except for the drumming of the
rain. It is as if the war had disappeared, vanished. The
GUARDS stand motionless, hardly breathing, so captivated by
MERLE’S performance that they suddenly resemble little
children.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Who… here… is for Merle…?

MERLE begins his chant again. His voice is low, very
dramatic, and the GUARD IN CHARGE joins right in.

MERLE (CONT’D)
(with GUARDS)
MERLE IS MIGHTY! — HA!
MERLE IS STRONG! — HA!
MERLE IS MAGIC — HA!

MERLE snaps the revolver level in his hand and BLASTS the
GUARD IN CHARGE, hitting him full in the face. At the same
time NICK throws himself into the GUARD who is standing
behind him, spins and slams the GUARD’S AK 47 into his chin.
TWO MORE SHOTS BLAST OUT FROM MERLE’S .45 and we see TWO
GUARDS crash over the kitchen table. NICK now opens up with
AK 47, and as MERLE backs off beside him, also with an AK 47,
they GUN the remaining GUARDS to the floor.

It is over in an instant. The BODIES lie in a bloody, tangled
mess under a pathetic paper lantern. The rain drones on — 
uninterrupted, undiminished, eternal…

Notice how the sequence begins in crisis, describing Sal (Steven’s) deteriorating condition:

SAL has absolutely no comprehension of what is about to
happen to him. His eyes are dreamy, far away, as if he had
mentally transported himself to some distant place. There are
great gashes in his head from the blows he has received and
as he stands waiting in the pouring rain he looks exactly
like a very small child who has experienced some terrible
confusion.

This description drives home the reality to Nick — that in order to have any
chance to save Steven and themselves, they have to act now: First step is to get the captors to allow Nick and Michael to face each other, not an American and Vietnamese prisoner as before. Crazy move, but necessary for what Michael has in store.

With both Americans participating, the odds of one of them dying increase
exponentially. And see how the scene description infuses the moment with that threat:

NICK almost loses what little control is left and his hand
begins shaking violently.

NICK puts the revolver against his temple and pulls the
trigger. There is a dull CLICK.

NICK puts the revolver back on the table. His hand is shaking
so badly it falls with a clunk.

The shaking of his hand reflecting the tension, even insanity of the moment. But then the second part of Michael’s plan: Coax their captors to put three bullets in the pistol, thereby almost ensuring somebody’s death in the first go-round. Worried that the Viet Cong will catch on, Michael does his best to distract them by acting crazy:

MERLE hops up and down again, then screams at NICK, jabbing
his finger at him, as if in fury.

Then amazingly, two rounds of roulette — no gunshot. Which means that it’s virtually certain there’s a live round loaded and ready to go — and it’s Michael’s turn. Then this description:

MERLE stares at the revolver — stares at it with an
expression of utter gloom. Then he reaches out, takes the
revolver in his hand and pulls it toward him, as if he no
longer possessed the strength to pick it up.

MERLE (CONT’D)
(gloom)
Who’s for Merle?
(he thumps his fist on the
table)
Is anyone for Merle???

MERLE roams a glowering eve over the watching GUARDS, as if
suddenly discovering himself among traitors. Slowly, he
pushes himself to his feet. The gun is still on the table,
still in his right hand, and as he gets up he lets his body
sag over it.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Who here is for Merle…?

There is absolute silence now except for the drumming of the
rain. It is as if the war had disappeared, vanished. The
GUARDS stand motionless, hardly breathing, so captivated by
MERLE’S performance that they suddenly resemble little
children.

MERLE (CONT’D)
Who… here… is for Merle…?

MERLE begins his chant again. His voice is low, very
dramatic, and the GUARD IN CHARGE joins right in.

Michael’s performance “captivated” the men, an ironic choice of words because these are the captors. Then the pay-off:

MERLE snaps the revolver level in his hand and BLASTS the
GUARD IN CHARGE, hitting him full in the face. At the same
time NICK throws himself into the GUARD who is standing
behind him, spins and slams the GUARD’S AK 47 into his chin.
TWO MORE SHOTS BLAST OUT FROM MERLE’S .45 and we see TWO
GUARDS crash over the kitchen table. NICK now opens up with
AK 47, and as MERLE backs off beside him, also with an AK 47,
they GUN the remaining GUARDS to the floor.

It is over in an instant. The BODIES lie in a bloody, tangled
mess under a pathetic paper lantern. The rain drones on — 
uninterrupted, undiminished, eternal…

What a scene. What an ending. And its own denouement: “…BODIES lie in a bloody, tangled mess… rain drones on — uninterrupted, undiminished, eternal…”

It’s almost as if in this incredible twist pulled off by Michael and Nick — including somehow willing away two bullets which by all rights should have been loaded to go — they have taken this ‘profane’ moment and transformed it into a ‘sacred’ event through the blood sacrifice they make by slaughtering their captors.

This is a terrific example of using scene description to help build the tension in a scene to a powerful climax.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

For more Scene Description Spotlight posts, go here.

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Scene Description Spotlight: “The Deer Hunter” was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Great Scene: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid”

Butch and Sundance return to the Hole in the Wall Gang… and a challenge.

Fight scenes. Whether swords or knives, guns or fists, lasers or kung fu, fight scenes are a staple of the movies. One problem: They’re so common, what can a screenwriter do to distinguish theirs from all the previous examples? William Goldman came up with an unexpected twist with this fight scene featuring Butch Cassidy (Paul Newman) and the much bigger Harvey Logan (Ted Cassidy).

Here is the scene as scripted by Goldman:

BUTCH AND HIS MEN
BUTCH
Now let's just forget about Harvey taking over.
Okay, Flat Nose?
FLAT NOSE CURRY has been nicknamed for obvious reasons.
FLAT NOSE CURRY
You always told us anyone could challenge you --
BUTCH
That's 'cause I figured nobody's do it.
CUT TO:
LOGAN
smiling, starting toward Butch again.
LOGAN
Figured wrong, Butch.
CUT TO:
BUTCH AND HIS MEN
BUTCH
(a little desperate now)
You can't want Logan --
NEWS
-- at least he's with us, Butch -- you been spending
a lot of time gone --
CUT TO:
CLOSEUP - BUTCH
BUTCH
That's 'cause everything's changing now -- it's all going
new on us --
CUT TO:
LOGAN
LOGAN
Guns or knives, Butch?
CUT TO:
BUTCH
Going rapidly on, doing his best to ignore Logan.
BUTCH
--everything's harder than it used to be --
you got to plan more, you got to prepare,
you got to be damn sure you're doing or
you're dead --
CUT TO:
LOGAN
moving in front of Butch now.
LOGAN
Guns or knives?
BUTCH
Neither.
LOGAN
Pick!
BUTCH
I don't want to shoot with you, Harvey.
CUT TO:
LOGAN
smiling.
LOGAN
Whatever you say, Butch.
And suddenly a knife is in his hand and --
CUT TO:
THE MEN
and with the appearance of the knife they start to get really excited, and from here on in that excitement only builds as they surge toward Logan who is calmly taking off his shirt. Butch moves to Sundance.
CUT TO:
SUNDANCE
on his horse, waiting quietly at Butch approaches. Butch is doing his best to cover how he feels.
BUTCH
Maybe there's a way to make a profit on this --
bet on Logan.
SUNDANCE
I would, but who'd bet on you?
BUTCH
I made this gang. You know I did. Now look
at 'em.
CUT TO:
THE GANG
clustered around Logan. He is stripped to the waist and his body is
brutal. Suddenly he calls out --
LOGAN
Sundance -- when we're done, if he's dead, you're
welcome to stay.
CUT TO:
BUTCH AND SUNDANCE
Looking out at Logan. Butch speaks quietly to Sundance.
BUTCH
Listen, I'm not a sore loser or anything, but
when we're done, if I'm dead, kill him.
SUNDANCE
(to Logan, but in
answer to Butch
Love to.
CUT TO:
BUTCH
He fidgets a moment, then starts the long walk back toward Logan.
Logan is younger and faster and stronger and Butch knows it, and
knowing it doesn't make the walk any pleasanter. Still he moves
forward, unarmed as yet, toward the other man.
CUT TO:
LOGAN
watching him come. In the sun his body glistens.
CUT TO:
BUTCH
moving through the gang toward Logan. He is unarmed and a
knife is offered him by one of the gang.
BUTCH
Not yet.
(moving up to Logan now)
Not til Harvey and me get all the rules
straight.
LOGAN
Rules? In a knife fight?
No rules!
As he finishes speaking Butch delivers the most aesthetically exquisite kick in the balls in the history of the modern American cinema.
CUT TO:
LOGAN
For a moment he just stands there. Then he makes an absolutely
indescribable sound and, as the look on his face moves from disbelief to displeasure, he sinks slowly to his knees.
CUT TO:
BUTCH
He goes on as if nothing whatsoever had happened.
BUTCH
Well, if there aren't going to be any rules, I guess
we might as well get this fight started. Somebody
say 'one-two-three-go.'
CUT TO:
SUNDANCE
(like a shot)
One-two-three-go.
CUT TO:
LOGAN
He is green now, and still on his knees. Butch approaches, nods, locks his hands together and, as if swinging a baseball bat, delivers a stunning blow to Logan's jaw. Logan falls and lies there.
CUT TO:
FLAT NOSE CURRY AND SEVERAL OTHERS
all hurrying to Butch.
FLAT NOSE
I was rooting for you, Butch.
BUTCH
(with great earnestness)
I know, Flat Nose. That's what sustained me
in my time of trouble.

“As he finishes speaking Butch delivers the most aesthetically exquisite kick in the balls in the history of the modern American cinema.” Great stuff. And notice how deftly Goldman wove in one of the key themes of the movie with this line: “That’s ’cause everything’s changing now — it’s all going new on us.” The world is changing (e.g., bicycles!), but Butch and Sundance don’t end up changing, and it costs them plenty — their lives.

Here is the movie version of the scene:

How much do we miss Paul Newman?

For more of the Great Scene series, go here.


Great Scene: “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story – Medium

Great Scene: “This is Spinal Tap”

“These go to 11.”

This is Spinal Tap is still the gold standard in mockumentaries. Since most of the movie’s dialogue is improvised, I also thought it would be interesting to see the script, written by Christopher Guest & Michael McKean & Harry Shearer & Rob Reiner, from which the cast worked. The entire script is written this way, so it’s only 60 pages long.

Here is the famous “These go to 11” scene featuring documentary director Marty (Rob Reiner) interviewing rocker Nigel (Christopher Guest)
amidst all the guitars and amps he’s acquired over the years.

INT. DETROIT CONCERT VENUE
During the soundcheck, Nigel is showing Marty
DiBroma his large collection of guitars, including
a cordless model which plays through its amp by
means of a tiny radio transmitter. It's like
watching a kid show off his toys. He points out
that he has his amps customized with special dials.
Unlike most amps, whose highest volume level is
indicated by a "10" on the dials, Nigel's dials go
up to 11.

Here is a transcript of the last part of the scene’s dialogue from the movie:

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...
Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?
Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.
Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?
Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?
Marty DiBergi: I don't know.
Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?
Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.
Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.
Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?
Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

And now the scene as it plays in the movie:

My movie Alaska was a Castle Rock production, so I was hanging around their offices doing rewrites when Christopher Guest and company were shooting Waiting for Guffman. As a bonus, I got to see some of the dailies and read the script. Guest uses pretty much the same approach with every one of his movies which include Best in Show, A Mighty Wind and For Your Consideration: Work out the story with each scene’s beginning, middle and end, cast the movie with skilled improvisational actors, try out a variety of takes, edit the best story possible. Spinal Tap was in effect the proof of this particular concept — and it has proven to work wonderfully as with this great scene.

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Great Scene: “This is Spinal Tap” was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Superhero Bits: Agents of SHIELD Returning Early, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Deleted Scene & More

Thor Ragnarok

Want to see a deleted scene from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2? How buff is Evangeline Lilly looking for Ant-Man and the Wasp? When is Agents of SHIELD coming back to ABC for the next season? How was Tony Stark‘s “Underoos!” line in Captain America: Civil War translated around the world? Which DC Comics superhero is getting a new roller coaster in Texas? All that and more in this edition of Superhero Bits.

In a bit of cross-promotion, Marvel featured this Guardians of the Galaxy adventure with the M&M’s candies.

SyFy’s series Krypton will explore the religion of Superman‘s planet, and it will be a prominent part of the story.

Kryptonian Green Lantern

DC Comics has introduced the first ever Kryptonian Green Lantern, and Comic Book Resources has more on her.

Inhumans actress Serinda Swan defends the visual effects for her character Medusa‘s hair in the Marvel TV series.

DC All Access takes a closer look at the upcoming Superman prequel TV series Krypton coming to SyFy next year.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas will be getting a Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster, replacing the Power Surge ride.

Thor Ragnarok Empire Cover Thor Ragnarok Empire Cover thorragnarok-thor-loki-nyc-full

Empire Magazine debuted a new photo (above) from Thor: Ragnarok and two newcovers featuring Thor and Hulk.

Variety reports actress Sydelle Noel has a role in season six of Arrow as an FBI agent named Samandra Watson.

Continue Reading Superhero Bits>>

Due to the amount of graphics and images included in Superhero Bits, we have to split this post over THREE pages. Click the link above to continue to the next page of Superhero Bits.

The post Superhero Bits: Agents of SHIELD Returning Early, Guardians of the Galaxy 2 Deleted Scene & More appeared first on /Film.


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Great Scene: “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back”

Luke confronts a phantasm of Darth Vader… and his own Shadow.

I would argue the best Star Wars movie is The Empire Strikes Back (1980). And one of the reasons is because it trafficked in the some of the most interesting ideas in the SW saga, in particular the relationship of Luke Skywalker to the “dark side” of the Force.

This scene occurs on Dagobah, where Luke has been in training with aged Jedi master Yoda, learning the ways of the Force, and signifies a major turning point for young Luke — as he is forced to confront his own shadow self. It’s a scene thick with metaphorical and symbolic import, and I feel confident in saying that Carl Jung himself would have been proud of it.

EXT. DAGOBAH — DAY

With Yoda strapped to his back, Luke climbs up one of the many thick
vines that grow in the swamp. Panting heavily, he continues his course
– climbing, flipping through the air, jumping over roots, and racing in
and out of the heavy ground fog.

YODA
Run! Yes. A Jedi’s strength
flows from the Force. But beware
of the dark side. Anger… fear…
aggression. The dark side of
the Force are they.
Easily they flow, quick to join
you in a fight. If once you
start down the dark path, forever
will it dominate your destiny,
consume you it will, as it did
Obi-Wan’s apprentice.

LUKE
Vader. Is the dark side stronger?

YODA
No… no… no. Quicker, easier,
more seductive.

LUKE
But how am I to know the good side
from the bad?

YODA
You will know. When you are calm,
at peace. Passive. A Jedi uses
the Force for knowledge and
defense, never for attack.

LUKE
But tell me why I can’t…

YODA
(interrupting)
No, no, there is no why. Nothing
more will I teach you today.
Clear your mind of questions.
Mmm. Mmmmmmmm.

Artoo beeps in the distance as Luke lets Yoda down to the ground.
Breathing heavily, he takes his shirt from a nearby tree branch and
pulls it on.

He turns to see a huge, dead, black tree, its base surrounded by a few
feet of water. Giant, twisted roots form a dark and sinister cave on
one side. Luke stares at the tree, trembling.

LUKE
There’s something not right here.

Yoda sits on a large root, poking his Gimer Stick into the dirt.

LUKE
I feel cold, death.

YODA
That place… is strong with the
dark side of the Force. A domain
of evil it is. In you must go.

LUKE
What’s in there?

YODA
Only what you take with you.

Luke looks warily between the tree and Yoda. He starts to strap on his
weapon belt.

YODA
Your weapons… you will not
need them.

Luke gives the tree a long look, than shakes his head “no.” Yoda
shrugs. Luke reaches up to brush aside some hanging vines and enters
the tree.

INT. DAGOBAH — TREE CAVE

Luke moves into the almost total darkness of the wet and slimy cave.
The youth can barely make out the edge of the passage. Holding his lit
saber before him, he sees a lizard crawling up the side of the cave and
a snake wrapped around the branches of a tree. Luke draws a deep
breath, then pushes deeper into the cave.

The space widens around him, but he feels that rather than sees it.
His sword casts the only light as he peers into the darkness. It is
very quiet here.

Then, a loud HISS! Darth Vader appears across the blackness,
illuminated by his own just-ignited laser sword. Immediately, he
charges Luke, saber held high. He is upon the youth in seconds, but
Luke sidesteps perfectly and slashes at Vader with his sword.

Vader is decapitated. His helmet-encased head flies from his shoulders
as his body disappears into the darkness. The metallic banging of the
helmet fills the cave as Vader’s head spins and bounces, smashes on the
floor, and finally stops. For an instant it rests on the floor, then it
cracks vertically. The black helmet and breath mask fall away to
reveal… Luke’s head.

Across the space, the standing Luke gasps at the sight, wide-eyed in
terror.

The decapitated head fades away, as in a vision.

Here is the scene from the movie:

A great scene from a great movie.

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Great Scene: “Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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