Genre: Action-Adventure
Premise: An alien civilization attacks planet earth… using 80s video game characters.
About: There seems to be a new stealth tactic suspect Hollywood projects are using to get geek cred. It’s called the “Thrones Tactic.” This is when you cast one of the actors from Game of Thrones in your movie to trick the potential audience into thinking your movie is cool. We saw this fail with Terminator: Genisys (Emilia Clarke) but hopefully it will work here (Peter Dinklage). Pixels comes out later this summer and stars Adam Sandler, Peter Dinklage, Josh Gad, and Michelle Monaghan.
Writer: Tim Herlihy (revisions by Timothy Dowling) Current Revisions by Tim Herlihy
Details: 100 pages – February 19, 2014 draft

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I was hoping that Pixels was going to be the movie Adam Sandler used to finally get back to being funny. That hope was dashed when I saw the writer of Pixels was the same writer who gave us Grown Ups 2, Bedtime Stories, Mr. Deeds, and of course, Little Nicky.

Sony wised up and at least got Timothy Dowling (Role Models, George Lucas in Love) to add some funniness to the script, although it appears his contributions were short lived, as the original writer got to come back on and change everything back to the way he wanted.

I was actually excited about this movie due to the hilarious final gag in its trailer (here’s the trailer, make sure to watch til the end). It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that that gag was NOT in this draft and was probably thought up by someone else on the set who was actually, you know, funny.

In 1982, Julian Brenner was almost the video game champion of the world. At the last second, he lost out in Donkey Kong to gamer stud and all-around asshole, Eddie Plant. Julian never quite recovered from that loss, and now, 33 years later, he’s a member of Geek Squad, those guys who come to your house in sissy looking cars and install your TV or computer.

I don’t know if you want to say having your planet invaded by aliens is “lucky,” but when you’re the one guy who possesses the special skill to defeat said aliens, you have the potential to go from zero to hero.

You see, 30 years ago, the planet foolishly sent off a satellite that included everything about earth at the time, including its infatuation with 8-bit video games. Unfortunately, the alien species who recovered this satellite happen to think that this is a direct challenge by Earth for superiority of the universe (or something).

These creative aliens want to play fair though, so they attack earth with the very games mentioned in the message. So they battle us with Centipede at Central Park, Pac-Man in Tokyo, and finally throw a free-for-all at us (Dragon Lair, Frogger, etc.) in the final battle. Julian will have to team up with his old video game friends as well as his evil nemesis who defeated him in the world championships all those years ago, if he’s to both save the world… and his dignity.

pixels

You know what kills me about Pixels? It had the potential to be balls-to-the-wall crazy fun. But the script plays things so safe, it’s like playing Pac-Man with unlimited lives. There’s no freaking fun to it. After seeing Fury Road this weekend and realizing what happens when you REALLY go balls-to-the-wall, Pixels feels like the 7th grader who stands in the corner of the school dance all night, afraid to talk to a single girl.

Here’s the thing with formula. It’s awesome for structure. There IS a way to tell a story for maximum impact and the 3-Act structure is that way. Most writers never even get to the point of understanding the 3-Act structure so there’s something to be said for writers who master it.

However, if that’s ALL you’re doing and you’re just mailing in all the other components (characters, dialogue, plot beats), you’re never going to write anything good. Your script is going to look fine on the page. But it’s never going to stir up emotion in a reader. It’s never going to shock them or excite them. And if you’re not achieving those things, you haven’t written a good story.

One of the most important practices in screenwriting is anticipating what the audience expects, then giving them something different. If you’re not doing this, you’re not screenwriting properly.

So let’s compare a scene from Pixels to a scene from Fury Road, shall we? In Pixels, one of the big scenes is when Centipede attacks Central Park. So our main character and a bunch of soldiers go to Central Park with brand new “light guns” to stop the game. How does this scene play out? BY CENTIPEDES ATTACKING FROM THE SKY AND OUR SOLDIERS SHOOTING AT THEM. In other words, EXACTLY how any member of the audience would’ve written the scene themselves.

I mean seriously? You can’t do better than an audience member?

I’m not even going to use a BIG scene from Fury Road for this challenge. I’m going to use one of the few scenes without a car chase. Someone posted this in the comments yesterday so you can watch it yourself to see what I’m talking about.

In the scene, Max is chained to a door as well as a passed out War Boy and wants to be cut free. He approaches Furiosa and the five sirens, who are enemies at this point, to get help. Max is using a shotgun that we know doesn’t work, to force them to cut him free. We also see, in the distance, that the enemy caravan is driving towards them, leaving them little time to settle this issue.

In other words, there are like 18 FUCKING THINGS GOING ON AT ONCE. Max is bluffing with the gun. Max needs his chain cut. Max is chained to a dangerous enemy who could wake up at any second. A siren approaches him with a bolt cutter. Will she help or will she attack? Furiosa looks like she might attack at any second. Behind them, we see the caravan approaching. They need to get back in the truck and leave now!

Had the writers of Pixels written this scene it probably would’ve gone something like this:

Max sneaks up behind the truck. He sees a bolt cutter attached to the truck’s back bumper. He pulls it off and cuts himself free.

That was the kind of boring predictable writing that went on throughout Pixels. And don’t give me this shit that you’re catering to a younger audience who doesn’t expect as much. That doesn’t give you license to be lazy. And lazy is exactly what Pixels was.

Julian’s best friend as a kid, Cooper, grows up to be the president! How convenient is that when aliens invade. The first person the president calls now is our main character. Oh, and the woman Julian delivers a TV to for his job and falls for – she just happens to be the main weapons defense administrator at the White House. How perfectly convenient once again! Even the best character created – an asshole midget gamer villain – wasn’t even a midget in the screenplay! That was, of course, figured out by someone BESIDES the writer. Because going with a midget would have been way too risky.

The only sequence worth its salt is the Pac-Man set piece. It’s the only time where the writers actually felt like they were trying. For example, our heroes start off chasing Pac-Man through the streets (with their “ghost cars”) and everything’s looking easier than they thought it would be. Then, all of a sudden, Pac-Man turns a corner and there’s: A POWER PILL. Julian, of course, knows exactly what this means. They’re no-longer chasing Pac-Man. Pac-Man is chasing them. Everything reverses now and they’re on the run. It was a rare Pixels treat. An unexpected reversal.

Unfortunately one good sequence is not enough to save an otherwise generic screenplay. I’m still torn with this one as the trailer makes the film look genuinely fun. So I’m wondering if they got another writer on this to save the day or they have just cleverly covered up all the weaknesses. I shall hope for the former.

[ ] what the hell did I just read?
[x] wasn’t for me
[ ] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: If Fury Road has taught us anything, it’s to go into every scene/sequence in your screenplay with this question: “What is the audience expecting here?” Once you have that answer, you simply go in a different direction. That one tip can improve your writing tenfold. Go ahead, I dare you to open your script right now and try it.

  • Poe_Serling

    The two-minute trailer was fun and probably a nostalgic trip down memory lane for a lot of gamers during that era.

    “That hope was dashed when I saw the writer of Pixels was the same writer
    who gave us Grown Ups 2, Bedtime Stories, Mr. Deeds, and of course,
    Little Nicky.:

    Tim Herlihy was Sandler’s college roommate.

  • Matthew Garry

    “Simpsons did it.”

    Well, almost, seeing how it’s a concept lifted from a Futurama Anthology episode (much like a Simpsons’ Treehouse episode). And calling it “concept lifted” here is probably kind, since the mentioned episode actually features the exact same Pacman plot point (amongst many things, and that’s just from Carson’s description).

    • Gregory Mandarano

  • Bifferspice

    in a scene involving pacman, the fact he ate a powerpill was surprising? it’s literally the first thing i think of when i think of pacman! if that’s the most surprising thing in this script, i’m not surprised it’s a dud.

  • S.C.

    I think it’s more difficult than simply giving readers what they are not expecting, since you also have to deliver on what you promise.

    We’ve all seen “action” movies with no action, “comedy” films that are too serious, “horror” movies where it’s a bit TOO psychological.

    However, I can’t think of any examples at the moment! And I’ve got to see my therapist, so I’ll just post this until I can think of some specific scenes.

    • brenkilco

      Pesci in Goodfellas, Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, the Nicki character in Donnie Brasco, Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment, Roy Scheider in Sorcerer though maybe we should have seen that one coming, mother in Psycho-well, the fact that she is dead, Gunter Meisner in Funeral In Berlin-trust me on this one, Florence Bates in Heaven Can Wait- technically she’s already dead but it’s still a funny bit.

      • S.C.

        I think those are all really good examples of movies where you get what you were expecting – gangsters, espionage, explosions, laughs – and something surprising too.

        Funeral In Berlin is actually my favorite Harry Palmer film and I think it’s a shame it’s not better remembered.

        • brenkilco

          Funeral in Berlin is actually much better plotted than The Ipcress File. It’s just not as well edited or directed.

      • fragglewriter

        I still can’t get over Joe Pesci’s death. That was so unexpected.

        • S.C.

          Counseling services are available.

          • fragglewriter

            OMG and you posted the scene!!!!! *runs out blog and cries uncontrollably in the bathroom*

            You can also add in the Godfather being shot in “The Godfather” That was so unexpected and more than an inciting incident.

          • S.C.

            I don’t care if it’s predictable, this gets me EVERY TIME!

          • Eric

            That’s some good dying from Sam Neill. No histrionics or over emoting. Just shock, realization, and a quick fade out.

          • Randy Williams

            Maybe S.C can find the James Cagney electric chair scene in “Angels with Dirty Faces” where he piles on the histrionics but perhaps on purpose.

          • S.C.

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          The way the scene was arranged definitely turned it into a surprise, but I was actually expecting somebody to whack him at some point, especially since he was the most unlikable of the three guys.

    • klmn

      Maj. “King” Kong in Dr. Strangelove.

    • brenkilco

      Oh, and Kevin Spacey in LA Confidential. “Have you a valediction, boyo?”

  • cjob3

    The Oscar-winning short film “PIXELS” upon which thia Adam Sandler/Kevin James movie has been based.

    • S.C.

      Nice find, cjob3! Love the production company logo in the style of the old OCEAN logo:

      http://usercontent1.hubimg.com/1477434_f520.jpg

      Does anyone know what happened to that short film about giant robots attacking Montevideo that was gonna become, like, the next DISTRICT NINE?

    • Randy Williams

      Like this so much more than the Sandler movie trailer which elicited groans from some in the audience I saw it with. This has so much more depth, with a sinister feel, the recompense of creating a monster and then ignoring it for sleeker models.

  • S.C.

    ARCADE GAMES THAT WOULD MAKE GOOD MOVIES

    ASTEROIDS!

    DEFENDER!

    OUTRUN!

    AFTERBURNER!

    OPERATION WOLF!

  • ripleyy

    What would this film cater to? Certainly not young children. I’m not sure many would know what Frogger and Duck Hunt is never mind PacMan. I think this could cater to those who grew up in the 80s, as well that really weird fanbase Adam Sandler somehow has. Other than that, I’m really not sure.

    • S.C.

      There’s a lot of retro-gamers who prefer the simplicity of earlier video games, even if they weren’t born then.

      The story wouldn’t work – given Sandler’s age – unless they were 80s video games.

    • Bifferspice

      “as well that really weird fanbase Adam Sandler somehow has” so that’s about a billion dollars guaranteed then

    • charliesb

      I think small children won’t really care that they don’t recognize the game. They see that giant PAC MAN and they’ll want in. They won’t get it on a nostalgia level, but despite the weak writing, the effects are pretty amazing.

      • brittany

        Yeah, I imagine this is something my four year old nephew would go bonkers over. I’ll probably be forced to watch it repeatedly while babysitting, lol.

      • ripleyy

        You’re right that they won’t recognise all of the iconic characters, but there might be enough there to keep them engaged. And I agree that the visuals look really great.

  • S.C.
  • charliesb

    Another thing to take away from that scene from FURY ROAD is to give each of your characters that are clashing over something in a scene a UNIQUE weakness.

    The tension builds in that scene because the person on top keeps changing. A new element keeps getting introduced.

    – The shotgun is empty,
    – Furiosa is one handed
    – Max is hampered by the chain, through the door, attached to Nux
    – Furiosa reveals a second gun,
    – The wives aren’t going to stand by and try to help Furiosa
    – Max is suffering from PTSD
    – Nux wakes up
    – Max grabs the new gun but has to eject it’s clip

    By the time those bullets go off around Furiosa’s head, you realize you’ve been holding your breath and are ready to exhale.

    Don’t make things easy for your heroes or your villains. This is something the MARVEL movies should really think about. Throwing a bunch of civilians into the frey is not creating a compelling weakness. HULK is probably the only character that has one, and with the introduction of the “lullaby” they pretty much neutered that.

  • Nicholas J

    I think this is a movie that doesn’t need to be good to make money. For one, the concept is highly original. (Simpsons or not, watch the trailer and tell me you’ve seen a movie like that.) The movie also feels BIG, therefore worth seeing in a theater, and it’s something you can take your kids to. Sandler and James are also two of the most bankable names in comedy, no matter your thoughts on them.

    I think this is the exact type of movie Carson has been urging us to write, though, maybe one with a smaller budget. Too bad it doesn’t sound like it’s going to be any good.

    • S_P_1

      I do agree on the concept. I think that’s enough to make this a modest box office success. There’s a documentary on Netflix about Atari burying multiple copies of E.T. The crowd that showed up and stayed for the dig proves there’s an audience for the script. One of the most successful You Tubers is Pew Pie Die. He’s a millionaire because he reviews video games. So I’m hoping the movie lives up to the concept.

  • Citizen M

    OT: Just got back from Mad max in 3D. Wow! Should come with a warning: “Do not drive a motor vehicle after watching this movie. Your sensory inputs and driving judgement will be severely impaired.” (I came home by minibus taxi.)

    Still trying to process it, but let’s face it, the story is only there to provide a reason for the stunts. Which were specTACular.

    • brittany

      Haha, I felt the same way driving home after seeing it! I felt like I was driving about twenty miles over the speed limit when I actually wasn’t. And it was in the day time, so leaving the dark theater and driving in the piercing sunlight made things seem even more surreal.

  • Scott Strybos

    Why am I seeing Josh Gad everywhere all of a sudden? What was his break out role that made him such a big star?

    • S.C.
      • Scott Strybos

        Still haven’t seen Frozen.

        • S.C.

          Oh, just let it go!

        • Felip Serra

          Lucky man.

    • klmn

      There seems to always be one “designated fat guy” who gets all the obese roles. John Candy for awhile, John Goodman for awhile, Jack Black, and so on. Maybe it’s just his turn.

    • Brainiac138

      Hollywood went gaga for him after Book of Mormon.

    • Midnight Luck

      I remember first seeing him in Love & Other Drugs with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, as the roommate. I didn’t find him funny, even though he was supposed to be the comic relief “side kick”, as he is supposed to be in every other movie I’ve seen him in. Yet I still haven’t found him to be funny. Now he does seem to pop up all over the place. Isn’t he also in the show with Billy Crystal THE COMEDIANS? Which I find ironic, since I don’t find him funny in the least. Billy? Hilarious.

      • Scott Strybos

        The Comedians is the latest place, yeah. Now an Adam Sandler film, which is high profile, in Hollywood at least, guaranteed money, especially if you can get backend.. I saw him in New Girl. I just heard he was in Frozen. He played the president’s son, the lead role, in a failed NBC series not long ago…. but that really isn’t that many projects. Maybe it only seems like I see him everywhere.

        • Midnight Luck

          Yeah, he has popped up in a lot of stuff.
          Recently he was in:
          Californication
          Modern Family
          Daily Show
          Ice Age
          Frozen
          Thanks for Sharing (with Mark Ruffalo and Gwenyth Paltrow)
          Jobs (that other Jobs movie with Ashton Kutcher)
          1600 Penn (I think this is the show you mean)
          Whish I Was Here (Playing Zach Braffs brother)
          The Wedding Ringer
          New Girl
          Comedians

          and a bunch to come

          Pixels
          Russ & Roger Go Beyond
          Angry Birds (? seriously, we have to have a movie about this?)
          Beauty and the Beast (again?)

          And this is only some of it. He is definitely popping up all over.
          I just wish I found him funnier. But I don’t.

  • Casper Chris

    Not gonna watch.

  • fragglewriter

    I watched the trailer for “Pixels” and waiting for the gag. That was so unfunny and predictable. I know that movies and ideas are nothing new, but rehashed with a fresh spin on it, but the premise of this movie sounds so familiar.

    That scene anatomy of “Fury Road” was excellent. I watched it and it gave me an idea for my outline. Not choosing what the audience would choose is good, but you also have to make sure that the intricacies of getting to the end, doesn’t cheat the audience. Just because it takes longer to get there, better be satisfying to the audience. I haven’t seen the film, so did War Boy pick up the clip and bargain with Furiosa?

    What I Learned tip is great. I think the best sequence in a movie that I have seen so far is from “Apocalypse Now” where Martin Sheen told them he needs to get to Marlon Brandon’s place, and not to stop. I was on the edge of my seat.

    • charliesb

      so did War Boy pick up the clip and bargain with Furiosa?

      Nux fights on the side of Max thinking that he will be interested in returning the women and being rewarded by Immortan. Max ends up with the gun, the clip and shortly after, Furiosa’s rig.

      • fragglewriter

        I don’t really like that outcome, but since they have to go back, that seems like the only suitable way.

  • S.C.
    • brenkilco

      Considering its rep as one of the great movie thrillers, surprising how leisurely the first act of Rear Window is. There is time for all the vignettes involving the neighbors, and the inciting incident is nothing but a bit of domestic tension. Although I suppose it could be argued that the real inciting incident occurs before the movie starts, the injury that compels Stewart’s confinement. But his suspicions of foul play don’t even coalesce until after the half hour mark. Could any script today afford to burn as slowly?

      The script does contain a near perfect example of a mid point reversal. The revelation by the detective that the supposedly dead woman has been seen alive. And it also fits Wilder’s opinion that the story is really over at the end of the second act,and that the third is really a race to the finish. The second act break is the solution by Stewart of the dog’s murder. All doubt has been erased and the only thing left is to nail the killer.

      • S.C.

        I think, I hope, it illustrates Carson’s point about having a three-act structure but then surprising the audience; the up and down line (somewhat) shows the ups and downs facing the lead character.

        Things are going well, things are not going so well, things are going well, all is lost, recovery, things are going well, and so on.

        Good news: they might put Alfred Hitchcock on the new £20 note! But only at 50/1…

        http://www.williamhillplc.com/media/newsroom/media-releases/2015/lowry-is-early-favourite-to-be-new-20-name/

        • brenkilco

          Have to think the fact that he abandoned Britain for sunny So Cal would count against him. And Richard Attenborough has shorter odds.

          Not being British, I have to ask. Who the bloody hell is LS Lowry?

  • Felip Serra

    This is a bit OT but did anyone catch that recent Simon Pegg interview? Though not specifically related to “Pixels” I think his comments could be applied:

    “I’m very much a self-confessed fan of science-fiction and genre cinema. But part of me looks at society as it is now and thinks we’ve been infantilised by our own taste. We’re essentially all consuming very childish things – comic books, superheroes… Adults are watching this stuff, and taking it seriously!” he told Radio Times, noting the shift from substantive dramas of the ’70s that were popular box office hits to what we have today.

    “It is a kind of dumbing down in a way. Because it’s taking our focus away from real-world issues,” Pegg added. “Films used to be about challenging, emotional journeys or moral questions that might make you walk away and re-evaluate how you felt about… whatever. Now we’re walking out of the cinema really not thinking about anything, other than the fact that the Hulk just had a fight with a robot.”

    • S.C.

      Well, where is the HARD sci-fi? Where are the Frank Herbert and Robert Heinlein adaptations? HARD fantasy (maybe Game of Thrones)?

      Genre cinema can deal with real-world issues.

      • Felip Serra

        You’re certainly right; genre cinema has the opportunity to take real-world issues and flesh them out engagingly. But I feel that Hollywood doesn’t understand Sci-Fi, regardless if its hard or soft. The successes of “The Matrix” or “Avatar” weren’t chalked up to their being good science fiction but their having kung-fu or being presented in 3D. Conversely Sci-Fi was (totally) blamed for the failures of “John Cater” or “Cowboys and Aliens”.

        What I took from Pegg’s comments was simply to have a balanced diet; empty calories are fine in moderation but as a food group they will make you sick.

        • Casper Chris

          Can you link the interview?

        • Midnight Luck

          Totally agree.
          Too many empty calories in and all you get is diabetes and an inability to stop eating empty calories.
          We have truly become a bunch of fast food nations, gorging on empty brainless calories. (Which doesn’t fill you up, or satisfy, so we go back to the trough hoping to be satiated. Only we don’t find it. And instead of looking to do something different, we just go back again and again getting the same result. Insane? Definitely. And unhealthy)

        • S_P_1

          What wasn’t straight forward about Cowboys and Aliens? I thought it worked for what it was.

          • Felip Serra

            That’s fine, of course; I myself have never seen it. I was merely pointing out its “disappointing” performance based solely on numbers. It was meant to be a bigger hit than its results.

      • wlubake
    • S.C.

      Maybe this is what Simon Pegg wants to see more of:

    • Midnight Luck

      Totally agree.

    • S_P_1

      Everyone has their favorite era it’s a matter of preference not fact. What was made in the 70’s was different from what is produced in the 2010’s not better.
      Superhero movies are the modern day cowboy genre. The major difference now is a higher degree of access when it comes to finding out every single aspect of the movie making process. If Hollywood took the same approach magicians take to never reveal the trick, think how more entertaining going to the cinema would be.

      • Felip Serra

        Well said! I can appreciate the “usual suspects” from the 70’s but cannot fully embrace them. Were things better then? Yes and no… And that will always be the answer. One could argue about a change in quality but I would counter with the change in audiences…

        In regards to Hollywood keeping secrets its a fat chance nowadays. While its true that we, as the expecting audience, do not need to know every facet of the movie-making process the studios rely on feeding us little tidbits of information to keep our interest from waning. Its idea is similar to propaganda in that, the more you repeat a thing, the more rote it becomes in our memory and thus recognizable.

        Lastly, and purely out of personal curiosity, what does the “S.P.” stand for? If you wish it to remain private I completely understand…

        • S_P_1

          Sean Price

      • Bifferspice

        you don’t think the 70s was a better era of filmmaking than today?

        • S_P_1

          I appreciate all the classics from the 70’s as well as the lesser known films. But I didn’t see any of those films when they first came out. I’m not dismissing the 70’s I’m just pointing out every decade is significant.

  • Randy Williams

    O.T. Coming after the enthusiasm shown here for the AOW script, Miss Universe, I couldn’t help but notice this other script recently downloaded to The Blacklist review site.

    Miss Megaverse

    When an alien girl ages out of beauty pageants on her own planet, she
    travels to Earth to continue her quest for “the crown” but finds more
    than perfect make-up and the right walk standing in her way.

    • brittany

      Hmmmmmm.

    • S.C.

      I say coincidence.

  • mulesandmud

    Wonderful. Looks like a perfect Tuesday to ignore today’s script and go on with yesterday’s conversation. So, without further ado…

    FURY ROAD – HOW TO HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

    Exposition.

    It’s unavoidable. Every script has it. A story needs context, plain and simple, and especially at the beginning, that context comes mostly from exposition.

    The temptation, then, is to frontload your story with the exposition, to get it out of the way, laying all the necessary pipe before the real drama kicks in, so that an audience knows everything they need to know.

    A very tempting way to ruin your story before it even starts.

    The beginning of a script – the opening image, the first scene, the first line of dialogue – is a make-or-break moment. As we see right here on SS every weekend, most people are tempted to stop reading as soon as possible. Your job as the writer is to give them reasons to stick around. To lure them in. To make them curious.

    An exposition dump at the start of your story accomplishes the opposite of that. It gives answers before we even know to start asking questions. It murders curiosity in its sleep.

    Instead of luring us into your story, you’ve coated the beginning in a thick patina of information, but as my old buddy with a broken caps-lock key, David Mamet, once said: THE AUDIENCE WILL NOT TUNE IN TO WATCH INFORMATION.

    Starting a story with exposition is like putting on a condom before you go on a first date. You’re getting way ahead of yourself. Sure, it might come in handy if things go well, but the latex squeaking as you walk makes a shitty first impression.

    So, like I was saying…FURY ROAD.

    (Minor spoilers ahead.)

    I admit, I was a little nervous when Max’s voiceover kicked in at the beginning of FURY ROAD. A main character introducing us to his sci-fi world isn’t terribly original; in fact, it’s probably the easiest form of exposition dump.

    THE ROAD WARRIOR actually begins with an excellent version of voiceover, from an old man (a character from the film recounting the story years later), who gives us an overview of how the world fell apart and then a recap of who Max was, all in a black-and-white newsreel style.

    FURY ROAD gives a nod to that opening with a single shot of nuclear-blast newsreel and an audio montage suggesting the end of the world. We expect to dip into full exposition mode, but the movie is just messing with our expectations for the first of about a thousand times.

    Max hardly tells us anything at all, just gives a cryptic introduction of himself. “My world is fire and blood…haunted by both the living and the dead…reduced to a single instinct…survive.”

    And then we’re off and running. Max gets chased, gets captured, tries to escape, gets recaptured. Waking up in a cave, Max runs from the War Boys and bursts through a door only to realize that he’s hundreds of feet up; he tries to jump for it, but gets dragged back inside.

    This surprising climax to the chase is really exposition in disguise, giving us a quick peek at the world of the Citadel spread out below. That’s the strategy the entire film uses – it makes sure that any information we get is delivered mid-drama, rather than in the pauses between dramatic moments.

    More importantly, the exposition isn’t just disguised in the action – it’s relevant to it. Bad exposition often feels like it’s a fact sheet that will appear on some test later in the film. Good exposition seem to emerge naturally from scenes because it matters right now, usually to the people in the scene.

    Take Furiosa’s story. When we first meet her, she’s climbing into her War Rig, and all we get are the barest hints of info: she’s an Imperator (?), ostensibly going on a supply run.

    In fact, she’s about the steal the Wives from Immortan Joe, but we don’t learn that here. The information comes later, logically, when Joe notices that she has taken a detour. He deduces what might be happening, rushes down to his vault to check on his wives, and see that they’re gone.

    We learn as he learns, and the information instantly affects the story: the war drums start to beat and the War Boys get ready to roll. Added bonus: by delaying this reveal and then learning with Joe, we feel like our bad guy is smart because he figures it out a moment before we do.

    We don’t even see the actual wives until Splendid climbs into the front of the Rig in the middle of the first chase. The fact that she’s hiding there isn’t just information anymore: it’s a complication that adds stakes to the current scene.

    A lesser storyteller would have thought we need to introduce the Wives before they go missing. Or that we would need to see what a normal supply run looked like before Furiosa makes her detour. Or that we would need Furiosa’s backstory to explain her behavior. Or that Max would have to know any of this before he meets them himself.

    A confident storyteller knows how to keep a story moving forward without pausing to explain. Knows how to make the audience ask questions first, then let the answers lead to new questions, and new ones after that, so that the audience is propelled through the story by their own need to know more.

    For every scene of your story, I recommend asking yourself: what do I need to know here? If a bit of exposition does not make that specific moment more interesting, it shouldn’t be there. Ask yourself, when do I need to know this information? At what point does it actually affect my story? If the answer is ‘it doesn’t’, then it’s dead weight, and your story will move better without it.

    • brenkilco

      Exposition is such a minefield. The first object, as you point out, would be to cut it down to the essential. After that it’s a question of how skillfully the writer can conceal it by folding it into conflict or action, or make the audience want the information so that the exposition provides at least a small dramatic payoff. Of course there is exposition you want to provide at the beginning that won’t pay off till much later so that when it does it will seem organic and not random. One of the areas that really separates the pros from the amateurs.

      • Poe_Serling

        For me, I like when exposition is sprinkled like bread crumbs throughout the course of a script/film.

        As you mentioned above, not in some a haphazard way, but rather with a competent touch so as to provide the reader/viewer with just enough
        crumbs to allow them to follow the story home on their own.

    • Midnight Luck

      I love reading your posts, but if you keep writing about Mad Max, I will keep having to avoid them!

      Yet I totally support your rabid fascination and support of a movie you really like.
      Carry on…..

    • Malibo Jackk

      Agree with everything.
      (Except the condom advice.)

    • Scott Chamberlain

      Great post.
      Apparently, the film did not test well and there were reshoots. I’m betting they had to add back in some exposition. There’s a couple of scenes (such as, Nux and his Spearman that explain how max ends up as a blood bad hood ornament; Joe confronting his real wife/mother/some old lady in the Wife vault) that feel “tacked on” and explain-y.

    • Paul Clarke

      Great advice Mules. Spot on.

      I think the back-story dump would have to be the number one amateur mistake. Avoid at all costs. I always think of it as giving answers to questions that haven’t been asked yet. It makes no sense without context. If you can make your audience want to know the information first, have them gagging to find out, then it will never feel on the nose when you reveal it.

      Plus, you shouldn’t use back-story to create your characters anyway, they should be defined by their actions and reactions right here and now.

      “Any information is delivered mid-drama” – nailed it. This is why I think the 3-act structure is more important at a scene level. Each scene/sequence should have a start – middle- and end, and you always include the information in the middle. A lessor filmmaker would have had omnipotent external shots of the place, then moved inside to find Max chained up.

      Keep up the Mad Max posts. Love ‘em.

  • Eric

    “Julian’s best friend as a kid, Cooper, grows up to be the president! How convenient is that when aliens invade. The first person the president calls now is our main character. Oh, and the woman Julian delivers a TV to for his job and falls for – she just happens to be the main weapons defense administrator at the White House. How perfectly convenient once again!”

    This is an interesting stem from the conversation about connections and subplots. What is it that distinguishes connections that enhance the story from connections that are just convenient?

    There will be a bit of randomness to the ones that are merely convenient. It won’t feel like an organic extension of the story because the reality is, it’s only been put in to make things easier for the protagonist and, more importantly, the writer.

    For example, when aliens attack us with video games, it actually makes sense to get a team of people who know video games to assist. Even if Julian was the second best video game player in the world, it still makes sense for him to be on the team. So why do we need a relationship between the two? I’ll speculate in a moment, but for now it feels random.

    Feeling even more random is Julian’s love interest/Defense Administrator (whose name I sought out to be Vanessa) being someone he delivers TVs to before everything goes down. I suspect the writers felt a need to introduce the love interest before Act 2, and this ham-fisted coincidence was the best they came up with. Which is a shame, because I think you could set this up just by showing Julian developing a crush while watching her on CNN.

    VANESSA: (on CNN) This new technology would allow us to cripple all defense mechanisms. I dare say decimating the enemy would be as easy as snubbing out an ant hill with one’s foot.

    JULIAN: (watching CNN) She’s so cute.

    I think it’s rarely the connections themselves that are poor, but more the way they are used. So I find myself asking, how could you keep these connections and have them serve the story properly?

    The first connection may not be that off. I imagine Julian starts off as a bit of a loser/under achiever. He never succeeded in life, even at the much-maligned thing he was good at. To have to wake up every day of your slovenly existence and see your high school best friend and/or mortal enemy on TV, being the President, being important, is actually a humorous way to twist the knife, I think.

    But you have to do something with it. That relationship has to be about that thing and serve that character arc the entire way though. You can’t just bring it up and then hit the eject button.

    As far as Vanessa, I actually think it would work better if she was also an old friend. Someone Julian had a crush on since high school. In this way, you can actually use your first connection to explain your second connection. What are the chances Julian knows two people in this administration? Well, Copper and Vanessa were friends too. He’s the one who brought her there. Maybe they’ve had or are having (or he wants to have) an affair. What could be more humiliating while still being funny than, ‘my best friend became POTUS and stole my girlfriend’?

    And there’s more for Vanessa to play now too, because while a woman defense administrator would have a hard time being taken seriously, a woman defense administrator who was possibly hired because of the President’s predilection for her would find it near impossible to have her opinions heard. What’s worse, what if it’s true? What if we get to end of Act 2 only to find that Copper really doesn’t put much faith in her abilities?

    Any connections can work. Even connections that seem like coincidences. But they have to form early as the story’s foundation, and once there, we actually have to build on them. Otherwise we’re left with several different story foundations, but no overall story structure atop any of them. If the only thing our connections get us is, “to the next page”; if the only thing they do is make it easier to slip a plot beat into its proper place, the audience will call shenaniganns. They’ll be able to feel, on an unconscious level, just how useless it really is to the story.

    • S.C.

      “If the only thing our connections get us is, “to the next page”… the audience will call shenaniganns.”

      Totally agree. Storytelling is hard, harder than the actual writing most of the time, but it’s worth putting the effort into. Even tweenagers can spot when a movie’s plot makes no sense.

      • brenkilco

        Even tweenagers can spot when a movie’s plot makes no sense.
        Maybe, but do they care?

        • S.C.

          My 15 year-old nephew really liked NEED FOR SPEED because it was full of cool cars and no CGI, which if you think about it is the same as a lot of people have said about the new MAD MAX film.

          http://www.trbimg.com/img-53208d77/turbine/redeye-aaron-paul-need-for-speed-interview-201-001/700/700×557

        • Eric

          To a certain extant, we all make concessions. The question is why. What is so important about the good parts of a movie that we overlook the faults? And how many faults constitute a breaking point?

          Citizen Kane, from a logical perspective, doesn’t even get out of the first act before it stops making sense. Who would’ve heard him say “Rosebud” when he died alone? The entire engine of the movie hinges on a plot hole. But in the end, there’s too much good in that movie to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

          Same goes for exposition. I think most general audiences actually want to know when exposition is occurring, because it signals to them when to pay close attention. If you hide exposition too well, there’s a danger people will forget anyone ever said that. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve heard exposition or seen a set-up and thought, “I can’t wait to see how this pays off.” The movie’s not winning me by keeping me ignorant, it’s winning me by letting me in. That’s how anticipation works. People have to know something of what to expect, or else they won’t expect anything.

          As per mulesandmud’s post, my test for exposition is less about hiding it and more about does it feel natural. Would these characters in this situation say these things?

          Now you can have the exposition delivered clumsily, but to me that’s a dialogue problem. You could start a movie with some guy in therapy talking about his life, and people might say that’s “too easy”. But if they’re right, that’s a ‘cliche/first choice’ problem. And each different problem needs a different avenue of thought to figure out.

          That’s the hardest part of rewriting for me. Knowing there’s a problem and having to break down exactly what kind of problem it is.

          • Midnight Luck

            I still feel, why does everyone love Citizen Kane so much? it is a dull, overly long, borefest. And it really doesn’t work or flow at all. It is an uninteresting exercise throughout.
            Personally, I’ll take TOUCH OF EVIL every time.

          • Eric

            I’ve seen it a couple times. I liked it okay. It held my interest through-out. It wouldn’t make my own personal top 50, but I wouldn’t begrudge it of anyone else.

            That’s sort of the way I think about art in general. There are CLASSIC bands, CLASSIC songs, and CLASSIC movies. Often times I’ll enjoy the classics, but not necessarily more than I enjoy any other movie, band or song. Very rarely does my list of personal favorites overlap with what are widely regarded as classics. And I think that’s the way it should be. A personal favorite is something that should speak directly to you about your own unique experience and place in the world. If my personal Top 10 movies exactly matched AFIs Top 10 movies, I would worry I was a rather generic person.

          • Poe_Serling

            Touch of Evil…

            Stunning opening shot. Chuck Heston. Janet Leigh. Welles. All stuck in a seedy border town. What’s not to love?

            David Lynch’s definition of a classic film:

            ‘When a film creates a world and characters that you are compelled to visit again and again, it is a classic.’

            From Welles filmography, I’ve always been partial to The Stranger.

            “A small-town schoolteacher suspects her new husband may be an escaped war criminal.”

            Directed by and starring Welles. The last twenty minutes is still a nail-biter.

          • Midnight Luck

            “What’s not to love?”
            Exactly.
            Touch of Evil to me is better than most all films of the past 50 years. For its time, that is an impressive thing for Welles to have accomplished.

            I haven’t seen The Stranger. Definitely will have to check it out.

          • walker

            The truly mature Welles films– Mr. Arkadin, Touch of Evil, The Trial, and Chimes at Midnight– are all well worth repeated viewings. It is a glimpse into an American cinema that might have been.

          • walker

            Two absolutely beautiful scenes in Touch of Evil:
            When the elevator is not big enough for the four of them so Vargas (Heston) takes the stairs while they talk about him, and then he surprises them by beating them and being there when the door opens.
            When Vargas leaves the interrogation briefly to call his wife (Leigh) in the corner shop while the blind clerk eavesdrops on the conversation.

          • brenkilco

            There are different kinds of exposition of course. There’s info we need to make sense of the story. And info we need to buy the story. In both cases I think the ideal is to have the characters serve it up so naturally that we’re wholly unaware that we’re being force fed data, instead of just eavesdropping on a conversation. With the latter kind I also think it’s OK if the audience doesn’t immediately register its importance so long as they absorb it sufficiently that once it becomes relevant later on they can say. Oh, yeah I remember that now.

            An example. Recently rewatched the really good, old thriller Charley Varrick. Walter Matthau and his partner are riding along, having just committed a bank robbery in which Matthau’s wife died. Out of the blue the partner says “Your wife told me you two met in an air circus.” This is Matthau’s cue to basically tell his life story. How he performed an act in the air circus where he flipped a plane over, then got injured and became a crop duster, then went out of business and became a bank robber. Now all this is a big chunk of what seems not particularly relevant info. we don’t really need this guy’s life story. Since we’ve just seen an exciting bank robbery and the pair are trying to elude the police we’re not bored but it’s still a slow scene. And it only exists for a single reason. So the audience knows Matthau knows how to flip a plane over. Because he’s going to use this trick an hour and a half later to trick the villain. The audience has to have this info or the bit at the end will just come out of the blue and won’t be satisfying. And it would have been too on the nose just to mention this one fact so it gets folded into a rambling personal history by the character. Could it have been handled more smoothly? Maybe. More naturally? Dunno. As a writer you have to convey the info, cover yourself so it doesn’t stick out like a sore thumb and try not to bore while you’re doing it. Like they say, if it were easy….

          • Eric

            Out of the blue exposition is tricky. Even if it’s one character prompting another it can still seem too convenient. When I’m in that situation, I usually search for a visual or audio cue that the character experiences that leads to the out-of-blue element. I find that kind of thing happens a lot in real life. You see or hear something and it draws up a memory that only you could pull from it, then you just start talking about it to the person next to you.

            In the case of Charley Varrick (which I haven’t seen) You could have them drive past an air field or maybe the radio mentions something about air planes. But for this kind of thing the subtler the better. So maybe have Matthau’s partner see a kid playing with a little paper or balsa wood airplane, and that triggers his memory of Matthau’s wife. Bonus points if the kid flips the plane, cause now you’ve got that image in the audience’s head too.

            I actually kind of like dealing with that problem. It’s an excuse to get into your character’s head and feel out how they relate just to the space around them

  • S.C.

    Sent! Tell us how it compares to the book.

  • S.C.

    Sent!!

  • IgorWasTaken

    Regardless of any lack of creativity in the action scenes, or if the battle scenes in the city are “taken” from other shows/shorts, the setup with the ship we sent into space, the aliens’ perception of it, and the aliens’ response – that is brilliant.

    Anyone know if that setup is from some other movie/show?

  • The Seether

    Midget? Really? I believe the preferred nomenclature is ‘little fucker’.

    • brenkilco

      Well, since Dinklage is actually a dwarf, ignorance and offensiveness are running neck and neck on this one.

  • Midnight Luck

    I am sorry, is it just me?
    Why does this sound inanely stupid?
    I would rather see INSIDE OUT for my money.
    How exactly does an alien race attack the Earth using our own digital Qbert inventions as attacking beings?
    Sounds as ludicrous and stupid as LEGO was.
    But we MUST use all the precious IP we possibly can to get all that digging for dollars cash! So it MUST be a good idea! Right?

    oh yeah, that Lego movie was a windfall shit load of cash, so we might as well do it again.
    Problem is, that movie was terrible, and kids still use Legos today, so you pull in the older retro crowd AND all the people in between. This one you only pull in the crowd from long ago who happen to remember it fondly, and care to remember it via a movie.

    What do I know? Nothing it seems, as I hated That Lego Movie because it was so stupid, and I hated that Guardians of the Galaxy movie, because it was so stupid.

    And everyone else LOVED them.
    Making them the most successful movies of the past few years. (Aside from that movie about sniping people to death)
    So this one will be HUGE most likely, no matter how bad it is.

    • pmlove

      I’m very curious to see what you make of Mad Max.

      • Midnight Luck

        I am too.
        I love dark and gritty things, so the trailer looks like it could be great.

        However, the fact that it sounds like it is one big car chase makes me a bit unsure. Plus there are so many factors involved with how the Writer / Director approaches everything.

        Many movies I believe I will love turn out to be quite terrible, and others I take a chance on, but don’t really imagine will be anything, turn out to be great.

        I really want to like this one. It looks crazy and kind of insane, and I totally respect and support that. It is why I loved SE7EN so much. Just out there, gritty, dark, kind of insane stuff. (Fight Club was also close, but not quite as brilliant as Se7en, though I loved the book)

        I think I will get to it by the end of the weekend hopefully. Not near any theaters at the moment. But, I don’t think it is going anywhere for a while.

    • Fish Tank Festival

      I’m with you on THE LEGO MOVIE and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY… and decidely will include F&F 7, THE WALKING DEAD and LOST and PROMETHEUS in the mix. And can you believe I wasn’t a fan of… gasp… AVATAR? I was thoroughly bored despite the whole cgi-jack-off-and-release-on-screen spectacle despite my love for most of Cameron’s work.

      Now, where you and I disagree though is THE MATRIX. Was and still a fan.

      Saddest part about it, fun, spectacle and decent amount of story used to inspire me, but now that I’m growing ever-increasingly into a film curmudgeon, less theater trips are edging me toward some sort of creative bankruptcy of my own.

      I’m hoping MMFR will inspire me to dream big again in my own writing, as pathetic as that sounds to hand over such power and influence.

      • Midnight Luck

        I can believe.
        Everyone I know thinks I am insane for not liking AVATAR.
        But, it is the same when it comes to THE MATRIX.
        So I am not a fan of any of the films you have listed above. Or The Walking Dead.
        John Wick? Really? You dislike all this stuff but liked Wick? I don’t even understand how that is possible.
        Oh well, everyone has their likes and opinions.
        But that one put me over the edge. It was so bad. and did so well, and everyone on here seemed to love it.
        I don’t get it.
        See, as bad as the overall movie scene is now, I am actually going to movies MORE than I ever have (which doesn’t seem possible, but it’s true). Yet it is letting me down even more. There just aren’t as many decent to great flicks around. It isn’t subjective, it’s real. They are taking the easy way out. Going for pure flash and glitzy shiny things, believing story and depth don’t matter.
        So everyone turns to TV, specifically specialized TV, to get what they are missing. Why are Mad Men and Breaking Bad and Fargo and bunch of others doing so well and becoming iconic themselves? Because they bother to create depth and variety with the stories.
        And people want it.

  • Levres de Sang

    O.T. Carson: this may be one for Christopher Pendegraft, but any chance you can restore the collapsible Date Archives on the sidebar? Just that I enjoy a bit of SS nostalgia from time to time…

    • Midnight Luck

      That would be nice, for sure.

  • S.C.

    Sent!!!!

    • Midnight Luck

      Could you possibly send it my way?
      m (at) blackluck d.o.t com
      thanks

      • S.C.

        Sent!!!!!

        • Midnight Luck

          Thank You!!

        • Midnight Luck

          oops, sorry, was hoping you were sending the UNITED STATES OF FUCKING AWESOME script.

          either way, thanks for the script, i didn’t have that one either.

          • S.C.

            Sorry, I WAS wondering why you wanted PIXELS! Sent you the other script.

          • Midnight Luck

            Cool beans daddy-o. thank you!

            Yeah, didn’t really care about Pixels, but, no reason not to put it in the library just in case.

            And I trashed on it, so I might as well read some of it.

            ok, stopped on page 0. right after the fake “Steven Spielberg” comment.

            and after they say TRIUMPHS “MAGIC POWER”, is it cool for them to specify a specific song? Was it added before it was made?

            Then I REALLY stopped after I had to reread the first couple paragraphs. I mean they introduce JULIAN BRENNER, but then his dialogue says YOUNG BRENNER.

            I had to go back and see if I missed another character, Who is YOUNG BRENNER?

            So I decided it must be Julian.

            I assume they are doing this, along with YOUNG COOPER even though they call him WILL COOPER, so they can later in the script use their real names instead. still, it made me backtrack, and only within the first 2 paragraphs.

            Come on, sloppy, sloppy.

            Aha! I knew they had to have included Q-Bert! How can a ridiculous weird JAR JAR BINKS / AVATAR character like that not be in something like this? and of course it is.

            I’m out. (ok, actually read the whole first and second pages) really not for me. I can see the oh-so-cutesy stuff playing out, the foreshadowing is slathered on thick, the exposition is as well.

            –things like:

            YOUNG BRENNER *
            Neither. Those blobs are ghosts,
            and the cheese wedge is Pac Man.

            YOUNG BRENNER (CONT’D)
            He’s a… I don’t know what he is,
            but he seems like a good guy.

            —this is definitely a foreshadowing and will come into play. so obvious.

            —or something like this:

            YOUNG COOPER *
            Wow. How are you so good at this *
            game? You’ve never even played it *
            before. *

            YOUNG BRENNER
            I don’t know. There’s a pattern to how *
            they are moving.

            YOUNG COOPER
            A pattern? *

            YOUNG BRENNER *
            (never looking up) *
            Yeah, there’s a pattern to *
            everything.

            —ugh, i hate stuff like this. don’t tell me this isn’t going to be of importance later on, or for the ending.

            just feels so cheez-o to me.
            oh well. thanks again though.

          • S.C.

            Yeah, I downloaded it for someone else. Looking at it, it’s full of things that if someone did on AOW, we’d trash them for it.

          • Midnight Luck

            that’s how I felt. If this was on AoW it would be ripped apart. So, how did it get made? I am not sure the idea is even strong enough to be impressive.

  • S.C.

    OT: I had no idea this was even coming out ’til I saw this poster.

    http://www.impawards.com/2015/posters/maze_runner_the_scorch_trials.jpg

  • S.C.

    OT: How the Opening Sequence of David Fincher’s ‘Se7en’ Perfectly Demonstrates Exposition…

    … with video!

    http://nofilmschool.com/2015/04/how-opening-sequence-david-fincher-se7en-demonstrates-exposition

    • Midnight Luck

      nice.

      I like this and agree wholeheartedly. It seems in so many of the AoW amateur scripts this is one area that is so not payed attention to. There are volumes of extra, non important, superfluous things, be it dialogue, actions, or items. Nothing feels essential, it almost always feels arbitrary:

      Chekhov’s Gun

      Also called “unity” in academia, this dramatic principle observed by author Anton Chekhov essentially states that every detail in a story must be relevant, essential, and irreplaceable to the narrative. Chekhov explains:

      -Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.-

  • Andrew Parker

    OT: Thursday’s Connective Tissue Article

    I went back and re-read your #24 favorite script, THE FOUNDER. There’s a B plot where Ray Kroc eventually divorces his wife. And who is it that caught his eye and lured him away? None other than the wife of one of his franchisees. Connective tissue!

    Anyway, a lot of the script plot points can be found in Ray’s wikipedia page. I like to go back and see how a sentence from the wikipedia can be expanded into a dramatized plot point in a screenplay. It’s a fun exercise to do on your own for a random historical figure.

    ————————-
    Here’s one to try out. Say you were doing Richard Pryor’s biopic. Here’s his wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Pryor

    I’ll pick out some plot points & sentences.

    – He had a son in 1960, Richard Jr, with Patricia Price. They divorced one year later.

    -“Inspired by Bill Cosby, Pryor began as a middlebrow comic, with material far less controversial than what was to come.”

    -“In September 1967, Pryor had what he called in his autobiography Pryor Convictions (1995) an “epiphany” when he walked onto the stage at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas (with Dean Martin in the audience), looked at the sold-out crowd, exclaimed over the microphone “What the fuck am I doing here!?”, and walked off the stage.”

    1. A scene of Richard watching Bill’s stand-up from the back of the theater. The crowd goes crazy for some innocuous observational Cosby joke. Pryor doesn’t laugh, but he notices everyone around him does.

    2. Pryor visits his ex-wife, who is living in squalor. There son is wearing ripped clothing. Patricia tells him maybe if he made an honest living, his son wouldn’t have to live like this.

    3. Richard’s on stage, shaking from stage fright as normal. He swallows hard before delivering a really boring vanilla joke. There’s a brief pause — then the crowd erupts.

    4. Montage of more nights of him doing stand-up. Time lapses showing the crowd getting bigger and bigger. Richard in the guest seat at The Tonight Show. Once the “On Air” side goes off, Johnny says something to him. But Richard is too lost in his own thoughts.

    5. He moves his ex-wife and kid into a bigger house. The mover shakes his hand — “My mom couldn’t stop laughin at your set on The Tonight Show.” “That’s nice. Real nice.”

    6. After a show at a large sold-out club. The owner is counting out Richard’s share of the house proceeds. Richard rolls up one of the dollar bills, you know what he’s thinking. He’s lost in his thoughts, finally snapped out of it by the owner waving his hands in front of him. “Hello, Richard?” “Sorry man, I must have drifted off.” “This is double last time’s amount.” “Huh?” “Yeah, it’s all rich white people now. More people, more expensive drinks. I love you man.” The owner takes Richard in a hug, kissing his forward. Richard can only look down at the rolled up bill.

    7. Dissolve to theater at the Aladdin Hotel. Cigarette girls walk up and down the aisle. The crowd is in a frenzy. Richard takes the stage. Nothing comes out of his mouth. He looks down at Dean Martin, who gives him a smile. Richard starts shaking again, like he used to do when he first started stand-up. And then he utters those immortal words – “What the fuck am I doing here?!”

    Not sure what the point of this exercise was. But I did just create a bunch of scenes using only a few Wikipedia sentences. Good practice. Thanks and I’m sorry if you’ve read this far.

    • S.C.

      OK, so picking a person at random – screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz – then taking a line from Wikipedia, again at random:

      most of the newer writers on Paramount’s staff who contributed the most successful stories of the past year’ were selected by ‘Mank’… he hired men in his own image: Ben Hecht, Bartlett Cormack, Edwin Justus Mayer.

      So already we see that we don’t only have ‘Mank’, we also have Ben Hecht and all these other amazing characters to use.

      We’ll call the script MANK, because that’s what everyone called him.

      Here’s the crucial bit though: rather than follow his whole life, we’ll just focus on this paramount era AND before he got involved in CITIZEN KANE – because after that, the focus becomes too much on Orson Welles.

    • S.C.

      Here’s another exercise: when William Goldman was writing ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN, he asked Bob Woodward to tell him the TWELVE key events that led to uncovering the Watergate scandal.

      Twelve key events.

      Twelve key events of the Raid on Entebbe (just using Wikipedia):

      1. On 27 June 1976, Air France Flight 139 hijacked.
      2. Plane lands at Entebbe Airport.
      3. Release of most non-Israeli hostages.
      4. Negotiations fail.
      5. Israel secures permission for IDF task force to refuel at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport.
      6. Israeli army consults Solel Boneh, a large Israeli construction company that had built the terminal.
      7. Mossad operatives interview the hostages who have been released.
      8. Israeli forces landed at Entebbe at 23:00 IST, with their cargo bay doors already open.
      9. Hostages rescued.
      10. Israelis destroy Ugandan MiG fighter planes to prevent them from pursuing.
      11. Israeli commander Yonatan Netanyahu shot in the chest and killed by Ugandan soldiers.
      12. The 102 rescued hostages were flown to Israel via Nairobi, Kenya, shortly after the raid.

      Act One: The Hijack
      Act Two (a): Intelligence gathering
      Act Two (b): Preparation and flight
      Act Three: Hostage rescue

      But that’s just my interpretation.

      But it’s a good exercise. I mean, that whole approach could be done to a FICTIONAL story. Twelve events giving you the four-act structure of the story.

    • S.C.

      One more: before writing TITANIC, Jim Cameron – a Titanic expert even before doing the film – wrote down a timeline of EXACTLY what happened on the Titanic’s first and final voyage, sorting out all the contradictions. So when he wrote the outline, scriptment, script, he at least had all the events worked out.

      Same works for fiction. Do a timeline of your story. Not a structural breakdown, but a REAL TIME timeline of your story. Then weave events around that. Like Cameron did.

      • Citizen M

        That’s an interesting approach.

        It gets you going on the story in a neutral way without the emotional creative block “Oh God, this is such rubbish, I’m useless” kicking in.

    • S_P_1

      I’m wondering what new source material will be for the Pryor biopic. Jo Jo Dancer Your Life is Calling(1986) was basically his life story. Several famous comedians have been attached at one point or another for the newest biopic. I not aware of the specifics of why each was passed on or left.
      I’ve seen footage of Pryor’s brief singing career before comedy became his main routine. Unless they explore those years I don’t know what hasn’t been told before. I hope they don’t take his comedy routines and try to write a script from that.

  • Poe_Serling

    There’s always a lot of chitchit here on SS about style and voice. Here’s Dan ‘Nightcralwer” Gilroy’s take on the subject:

    “Anytime you step outside the conventional formulaic bounds of the screenwriting style, it becomes a little scary. We’re already vaguely afraid of what the reaction to the script is going to be anyway.

    If you try to use style, in some ways you’re throwing caution to the wind. The style of the screenplay can often not just enhance the screenplay–it can move the screenplay forward… It’s not only okay to personalize the style, but it’s something that we all need to do.”

    Reprinted from WGA Written By, 2015 April/May edition.

    • Levres de Sang

      Thank you for posting these quotes! The Nightcrawler script is anything but a prisoner of convention… I particularly like its stream of consciousness style that incorporates the Goldmanesque “and CUT TO within its paragraphs. Not to mention all those crazy-scale fonts!

    • Midnight Luck

      this is awesome. thanks for posting.
      i really liked how he designed and wrote Nightcrawler.
      It just flowed really well.

  • S_P_1

    S.C if you’re still online can you send Pixels to s_price_1 @ Hotmail . com. Thanks in advance.

    • S.C.

      Sent!!!!!

      • S_P_1

        thanks

  • S_P_1

    Haven’t read the script but going by the trailer Adam Sandler looks completely disinterested. I know green screen and CGI characters present acting challenges. But I see a lack of enthusiasm on his part. Instead of going with an actor that would have been genuine for the part they went for the celebrity superstar.
    I’m completely interested in the premise so I’ll see it in spite of actors involved. I see this as a spiritual successor to Wreck it Ralph. My main drawback to the Wreck it Ralph were the real video game references were background scenery. Pixels is embracing the concept completely.
    I also agree with Carson on this one the tail end of the trailer was clever and funny.

  • Poe_Serling

    Oh, speaking of Adam Sandler… Does anybody here remember when Sandler’s company Happy Madison branched off for a microsecond and created its own horror label called Scary Madison Productions?

    To my knowledge, it was a one and done deal after they produced this direct-to-
    DVD title:

    The Shortcut

    “Two brothers come upon a rarely used shortcut in their new town and soon discover the reasons why it’s so rarely used.”

  • Midnight Luck

    interesting article on how Heath Ledger would have been in Fury Road, had he still been alive.

    I think that would have been even better. Tom Hardy is good but I don’t think he has the wildness, that almost crazy look in his eye. Heath would have been amazing. It would’ve seemed even more out there I believe. If he brought the energy to it he brought to the JOKER, wow, it could’ve been epic.

    http://www.ign.com/articles/2015/05/19/mad-max-fury-road-would-have-starred-heath-ledger

    • DavydSC

      Absolutely. I remember watching extras on the Dark Knight dvd where the other actors talked about simply being in awe of him as they filmed those scenes — it was clear to everyone present that they were watching someone who was in the zone, channeling god knows what, and doing something amazing. I mean how many Oscar nominations, much less wins, come out of comic book movies? He certainly would have made Fury Road better, just as he made (and would have made) anything else better.
      Per the article:
      “The world lost someone great when he went,” [Miller] added.

    • S.C.

      Oh, no! Should have been Sam Worthington!

      http://resources2.news.com.au/images/2009/10/23/1225790/616194-sam-worthington.jpg

      Look forward, Sam, there’s an explosion in the road!

  • Midnight Luck

    the Hollywood Walk of Fame….with Melissa McCarthy

    • S.C.

      I think she looks quite good!

  • spencerD

    Does any one have the script for LOUIE SLEEPOVER EPISODE? would love to read that script….also if anyone has the Fury Road script I’d be interested in reading that as well.