Genre: Adventure
Premise: An archeologist who moonlights as an adventurer goes on a quest to find one of the most important religious relics in history, the Ark of the Covenant.
About: This is the first draft of Raiders of the Lost Ark, written by a young Lawrence Kasdan. Kasdan wrote the draft off of 100 pages of notes from Spielberg and Lucas. Every studio in Hollywood passed on Raiders, thinking it too over-the-top. Finally, Paramount stepped in to finance. Kasdan would write four more drafts before production.
Writer: Lawrence Kasdan
Details: 144 pages! (June 15, 1978 draft)

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A great exercise for any screenwriter is to read early drafts of movies they love. One of the toughest things for beginners to understand is how much cutting is done from draft to draft. When you start out in writing, you want to include EVERYTHING because you want to show the world just how big and amazing your imagination is. But great screenplays trim every snippet that isn’t necessary. That’s why they read so well (and play well) – because there’s never a dull moment.

I was particularly eager to read this first draft of Indy, a film many consider to be perfect. Was that there in the first draft? Or did it start off as a total stinking mess? Because the first draft of another 80s favorite, Back to the Future, was all over the place. I actually have no idea how they got that to where they did. But the difference here is that Spielberg and Lucas gave Kasdan 100 pages of notes. They outlined this screenplay to the T (yay, more outlining debate in the comments!) before a word was written. Let’s see how it paid off.

For those who don’t know Raiders of the Lost Ark well, there’s this guy, Indiana Jones, an archeologist/adventurer, who specializes in getting hard to find items. He’s told that Hitler is trying to find a supposedly mystical object called The Ark of the Covenant. The army wants Jones to find it before the Nazis do. Indiana must find a series of items first that’ll help tell him where the Ark is, a job complicated by the fact that the Nazis have the exact same information he does.

I learned quite a bit here. You can see the differences from the very start. Do you remember when Indiana is walking up to the cave with the guides? Remember how it was all about looks? About glances being exchanged? About the tension in the air? That’s the way you want a scene to play.

But in the first draft, the characters are exchanging on-the-nose dialogue about the cave they’re going into and the plane that’s going to be waiting for them afterwards. It’s not a ton of dialogue, but the difference in tone is striking. Watching a character assess the situation in a quiet and composed manner creates so much more tension than two characters exchanging even the most sparse lines of exposition.

The next thing I noticed was there was no Belloq (the villain) waiting outside the cave for Indy. Belloq didn’t come into the story until much later, and he was only around sporadically. It was clear that none of the three writers knew their villain yet (there was actually another separate villain who was later eliminated or merged into Belloq).

This happens a lot in first drafts. You’re so focused on the heroes of your story, you don’t give the villain enough thought. It’s only in later drafts that you start fleshing the villain out. This may be why there are so few good villains in screenplays. They’re only getting half the attention of their hero counterparts.

One of the more telling first draft moments was after Indy’s approached by the army agents who tell him he needs to go get the Ark. Kasden included ANOTHER SCENE where Indy is woken up at home by the same agents, who remind him how important this mission is and how they really think he should do it.

This is something every writer does. We tend to believe we need to convince the reader more than we do. “Hmm,” we think, “Will the audience really think that Indy would go on this mission after only one scene?” So we write another. And sometimes another. But these scenes are almost always redundant. It’s the same thing and therefore not needed. This is why they got rid of the scene and just sent Indy off on his mission right away.

The next scene had Indy going to a museum in Shanghai to find part of The Staff of Ra. Once there he must defeat a group of samurais.  This scene felt uninspired and unnecessary, which is likely why they cut it. But it’s yet another lesson in writing. Just because you can write a set-piece scene doesn’t mean you should. Technically, you can create a set-piece out of any scenario. A man who wants to brush his teeth encounters a dozen assassins in front of his bathroom. Does that mean you should write it?

Set-pieces have a diminishing-returns effect. The more you include, the less special they become. So you only want to include the a) best ones and b) most necessary ones. Otherwise you’re just creating action where there shouldn’t be any, and the audience/reader is stuck wondering why they’re so bored.

So they cut this scene in the final draft and just took us straight to Nepal, where Marion, Indy’s ex-girlfriend, was. Marion is another interesting aspect of this draft. It’s clear, once again, that the three writers hadn’t thought enough about her character. This is an especially huge problem with male writers writing female leads. They just don’t give them as much thought, and it shows.

Here, there are way fewer scenes between Indy and Marion, and as a result, we never really felt any chemistry between them. With the exception of their first scene in the bar, which they obviously thought a lot about, the rest of the script was more about the plot. And when you’re writing a plot-centric idea like this (find the Ark), it’s easy for your character stuff to get lost. But yeah, after we believe Marion has been killed, she disappears from the screenplay for about 30 pages.

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Remember the famous scene in Raiders where Marion and Belloq drink in the tent together? Well that wasn’t here, because neither character had been thought through. This is what rewrites do for you. They allow you to explore areas you neglected previously. And what you’ll often find, is that by improving one neglected area, you’ll improve another. It was probably after someone said, “You know what? Marion isn’t in the script enough. We haven’t seen her for 25 pages. We need something with her.”

So they said, “Hmm, maybe we can create a scene with her and Belloq.” This scene may have then allowed the writers to know Belloq better, which in turn encouraged them to get him in earlier and earlier as each draft went by. To the point where, in the final film, Belloq appears in the very first scene. The scene also exposed how cunning and clever Marion was, which made her more fun to write, which in turn encouraged them to write a few more scenes with her and Indy.

Amongst all this unneeded fat, there was one scene I wish they hadn’t cut. In the scene where Marion is smuggled around the city in a basket while Indy tries to find her, this was originally a chase through the city ON CAMELS. It had this really humorous aspect to it, with Indy awkwardly trying to figure out how to ride a camel as he chased away, navigating low overhangs and uncomfortable humps. It could’ve been really funny.

The funny thing is, that where Raiders Draft 1 encounters its worst stretch is where EVERY 1st draft encounters its worst stretch, which is its second act black hole. It just goes on and on and on, to the point where we’re not sure what’s going on anymore.

I don’t think it’s til page 90 that Indy and Marion get stuck in the pit of snakes. 90 minutes in! It’s because too many of the previous scenes were people talking about where things were and where they needed to look next, and why they needed to look there next. All that was pared down for the final version. We rarely need as much explanation as you think we do. Make it clear what your character is looking for (The Staff of Ra) and let them loose. We shouldn’t need 7 dialogue scenes discussing where that Staff might be. Action over discussion.

The final change was that the climax did not occur with the Nazis opening the Ark of the Covenant. Instead, we get a coal cart chase on rails, much like the one in the second Indiana Jones movie.

This was a perfect example of the writers putting action over story. They’re thinking, “The audience is going to want a great big chase at the end!” They forgot that the story was about getting the Ark. So obviously, in the end, we’re going to want to see what’s in the Ark! That alone will be able to carry a climax, sans a big chase scene, which they eventually figured out.

The first draft of Raiders reinforced to me how much bloat we subconsciously add to our scripts. Keep your eyes on the prize when you’re writing. Make sure your characters are always focused and pushing towards their next goal. If you get stuck in no-man’s land (a lack of clarity in what your characters are doing), you can easily lose an audience.

The bloat kept this from being an “impressive.” But the guts of a great film were still there.

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

What I learned: Use the uniqueness of your environment to create the sequences that drive your story. Every environment is DIFFERENT. You need to then utilize the differences of that environment to make your script different. In other words, a break-up should play differently depending on if it’s in an airport (a couple breaks up while they’re going through security), in a grocery store (the couple destroys a fruit stand while breaking up), or in a a cappella group (the couple breaks up with each other a cappella). When I saw a camel chase in Cairo I thought: “Perfect!” That’s the exact kind of chase that could only happen in this movie in this moment.

  • Ryan Sasinowski

    Very cool. I’ve had the story conference transcripts for a while, but unfortunately haven’t had a chance to get more than a couple pages in. Even what I read was interesting. Definitely worth checking out if you get the chance.

  • Scott Crawford

    Even if you outline, you’re still going to need to rewrite.

    What I learned from reading Carson’s review – and I haven’t read the first draft – it appears to me that Kasdan (and Lucas and Spielberg) wanted to put down EVERY idea they had to see if it works. To me this is experimentation, and is at the heart of writing a great screenplay.

    The key difference between this first draft and a script written by, let’s say a rookie who hasn’t thought out their story, is that Kasdan’s first draft requires some cutting and some addition. And in these days of computers and Final Draft and whatnot, that cutting and editing can be done without having to start from Page One.

    Raiders of the Lost Ark has been compared to a James Bond film, and I know a LOT about James Bond. Outlines have been used on every Bond film, including the last one. Sometimes the first story idea (logline) they have doesn’t work out. These are some stories that didn’t make the grade:

    *Dr. No is a “monkey god”; the villain, a man called Buchwald, wants to blow up the Panama Canal.

    *A terrorist organization has planted nuclear warheads in pacemakers and is threatening disaster unless the Pope whitewashes the Sistine Chapel and the president (and later
    Queen Elizabeth II) appears naked on television.

    *James Bond, in his twenties, before becoming a Double-0 agent, teams up with an older agent to take down a Chinese arms and opium dealer who in his spare time likes to paint
    watercolors.

    By writing these ideas in TREATMENT form, the producers were able to say “interesting, but not for us”. Then, when they had the right idea in treatment form, then they would
    move on to script.

    Obviously changes would still have to be made. In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond has an underwater car and is imprisoned in a cage next to a gorilla, and the gorilla helps him to escape! Moonraker‘s locations were switched from India and the Himalayas to Rio and the Amazon – budget concerns. The reappearance of the Aston Martin in The Living Daylights was a last-minute decision, only in the shooting script – before that, Bond and the Bond-girl escaped the Russians… in a LADA!

    Sorry for all the Bond trivia; I know a LOT of it.

    Anyway, bottom line, Kasdan’s draft needs editing, but it IS a story about the search for the Ark. If Kasdan had written a story about the search for Santa Claus and the North Pole, then he would have had to start again, from scratch, when it didn’t work out.

    This is the third draft screenplay:
    http://www.scifiscripts.com/scripts/Indiana1.txt

    • Michael

      Thanks for the script link. Here’s a link to the transcript of the story conference between Lucas, Spielberg and Kasdan:

      http://maddogmovies.com/almost/scripts/raidersstoryconference1978.pdf

      • Scott Crawford

        Excellent work! I had the transcripts a while back but lost them. THEY ARE A SLOG TO GET THROUGH, IT HAS TO BE SAID! I don’t think I managed to get through all of it.

      • Linkthis83

        I’m glad you posted this. I was going to put a link to it but I no longer need to :)

    • brenkilco

      In the initial stages the villain in Diamonds Are Forever was going to be Goldfinger’s twin brother and they were going to bring Gert Frobe back to play it. Probably would have been easier as Frobe had by this point learned to act in English, though his actual voice wasn’t nearly as sinister as the voice of the guy who dubbed him in Goldfinger.

      • Scott Crawford

        Maibaum also wanted Gert Frober as Goldfinger’s twin brother in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. And in Octopussy. People always managed to talk him out of the idea.

        • brenkilco

          Hell, Frobe would have had to be about seventy by the time of Octopussy. Talk about not being able to let an idea go.

          • Scott Crawford

            Precisely. Spielberg wanted Toht (the Gestapo officer) to have an artificial arm, and you stick a magazine in the side and it became a machine gun.

            Lucas said no.

            Sometimes, you have to let the ideas you like go because they no longer fit in with what you’re doing.

          • The_Shadow_Knows

            It’s pretty weird to hear that George Lucas was once the rational one who shot down stupid ideas. A light saber with two blades is at least ten times as idiotic as a Nazi with a machine gun arm (and I’m not even going to mention the robot with FOUR light sabers).

          • Scott Crawford

            It was Lucas who told Spielberg FRUGALITY. Spielberg’s prior three movies had all gone overbudget. Spielberg wanted HUGE sets, lots of Nazi “Wunderwaffe” (wonder weapons). Lucas couldn’t get the $40 million they needed with Spielberg directing, so they did the whole thing for $18 million – and it’s still terrific.

          • Midnight Luck

            I guess Tarantino / Rodriguez stole that idea and put it in PLANET TERROR but gave Rose McGowan a machine gun leg instead.

          • Scott Crawford

            In fairness, the idea was first used in John Frankenheimer’s 99 and 44/100% Dead, one of my favorite films.

          • Midnight Luck

            Wow. Interesting.
            That is a strange yet, well, strange title.
            Intriguing.
            I haven’t heard of it.
            Though Tarantino probably saw it at some point.

          • Scott Crawford

            It’s a very Tarantino-like film.

  • davejc

    Thank you Carson! This is a most informative article. There’s some great advise here. And lot’s of essential tips!

    BTW Raiders was inspired by Spiders, an early silent flick from Fritz Lang, a fun little film if you’re into silent films. And Kasdan went on to make Grand Canyon which IMO is one of the best films about living in LA (well living in LA in the ’90’s).

    • Scott Crawford

      Other influences include the Bond films and Pimpernell Smith. But it’s probably less “influenced” than the Star Wars films:
      http://www.moongadget.com/origins/index.html

      • brenkilco

        As well old Republic serials featuring, tombs, treasures, evil arab villains, jungle locales and ancient tablets like Perils of Nyoka.

    • Somersby

      And Kasdan went on to make Grand Canyon which IMO is one of the best films about living in LA (well living in LA in the ’90’s).

      I absolutely love that film. It didn’t get anywhere near the recognition or accolades as “Crash”, but I suspect Paul Haggis was strongly influenced by the random encounters aspect of Grand Canyon. I liked Crash a lot, but for me, Grand Canyon in the better film.

      It’s also a deeply spiritual film, but not in any overt or dogmatic way. The buzzing helicopter always shining a spotlight down on the “city of angels” is both menacing and a metaphor for the watchful eye of God, methinks. And the homeless man’s prophetic line to Claire “”Keep the baby. You need her as much as she needs you” is both mystifying and moving. Gets you thinking.

    • GYAD

      …and of course, a rather obscure Chuck Heston flick: “Secrets of the Incas” —

      • filmklassik

        Whoa.

        I mean, WHOA.

        Indy’s spiritual godfather… in the flesh.

        Great capture, Gyad!!

  • Scott Crawford

    Carson’s mention of unnecessary setpieces reminds of something, again, unfortunately, from a Bond film.

    In On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Bond has a meeting about Blofeld with Sir Hilary Bray at the Royal College of Arms in London. The meeting goes pretty much as in the novel, but then Bond discovers that Bray’s assistant, Phidian, is spying on their meeting – if he tells Blofeld, Bond is screwed. Bond chases Phidian over London’s rooftops (early parkour!), into the Royal Mail’s underground railway (where mail used to delivered across London by unmanned trains). There is a fight and Phidian is killed by one of the unmanned trains. To get rid of the body, Q steals a train, and he and Bond put Phidian’s dead body aboard, then load the train with more dead bodies stolen from the morgue(!!!), before the train is sent crashing into the yards.

    Remarkably, this sequence survived four treatments and six screenplays, including the shooting script. It was storyboarded. They started shooting the chase across London – photographs still exist, though the footage is lost – but after several days filming they realized they were over-schedule and the whole train crash sequence was too elaborate just to deal with a minor character.

    If you see the final film – and I would, it’s great – the scene cuts away after the meeting with Sir Hilary Bray. But look carefully, fellow nerds, at the newspaper the character of Campbell is holding in the next scene: 17 dead in train crash! (They had already made the fake newspaper and shot that scene earlier).

    • brenkilco

      God, the movie runs nearly two and half hours as is. What were they thinking? Well, one possibility, the makers were a bit scared. After the hotel fight in OHMSS there is a solid hour of screen time with no standard bondian action. It’s engrossing and never dull-Hunt’s direction and editing transcend every other entry in the series- but it must have seemed risky at the time.

      • Scott Crawford

        I think that WAS the problem. They tried to add lots of gadgets, and gags, an unnecessary action, making it more like the film they were shooting while the script was being written, You Only Live Twice. Then Peter Hunt stepped in and insisted on filming the novel, and the final script is much more like the novel (and the first treatment).

    • filmklassik

      And did a second headline read: ALL OF LONDON NOW CLINICALLY RETARDED!

      Because — think about it — Q and Bond’s plan called for no one detecting a connection between the deaths of seventeen people in a rail crash involving an ordinarily unmanned train…and the same-day disappearance of sixteen corpses from the local morgue.

      And that, my friends, is a lot to depend on.

      But if the headline in Campbell’s newspaper is any indication, the original script had them getting away with it. Amazing.

      • Scott Crawford

        It’s really, really weird, and I think it points to the problem Carson alluded to; once you become enamored of a scene, or setpiece, and you spend a lot of time writing and planning and storyboarding it, you’re reluctant to kill it.

        In fact, the director kept quiet about it for years ’cause he figured the producers might want to reuse it (the train crash in Skyfall was Sam Mendes’ idea; he wanted a spectacular end to the chase scene).

  • lesbiancannibal

    Yeah ok but if he has a camel chase it takes away from the coolness of the horse chasing the truck – when he emerges on that horse and the music starts, that’s instant-goose-bump territory – maybe there would be enough of a gap but I don’t know. And you’re asking your audience to move from almost total slapstick (rather than a little slapstick with so many baskets) to the emotion of Marion being blown up.

    • Scott Crawford

      Not to mention that a camel chase MIGHT have blown their budget (they wanted $40 million, but because of 1941, Paramount would only give them about half that with Spielberg in the chair; yes, there was a time when Spielberg was viewed as not such a sure thing).

      • lesbiancannibal

        Ever watched this documentary on the making of Heaven’s Gate? – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hdcRiPLp4oU

        Great if you like thinking about budgets, and just everything to do with filmmaking, egos, artists etc

        • Scott Crawford

          I read the book years ago, didn’t know there was a video. Thanks I’ll check it out!

          “If you don’t get it right, what’s the point?” – Michael Cimino, c.1981

        • Casper Chris

          Great watch.

          I also recommend ‘Jodorowsky’s Dune’ (I watched it off Carson’s recommendation in his newsletter) and of course ‘Hearts of Darkness’ (which most here have probably seen).

          • Scott Crawford

            I never saw Hearts of Darkness

            … but I have seen Hearts of Hot Shots! Part Deux

  • brenkilco

    I was particularly eager to read this first draft of Indy, a film many consider to be perfect

    Let’s not get hyperbolic. Raiders is an enormously enjoyable film infused with a spirit of fun and with Spielberg firing on all cylinders. But it’s a picaresque adventure inspired by old serials that hauls its protagonist form pillar to post without much rhyme or reason. There’s hardly any plot at all. Indy must find a piece of jewelry and then find a specific location that lets him find the ark that gets opened and destroys the bad guys. The end. The hero is off to beat the Nazi’s to an archaeological find. Why is this urgent? Well it isn’t really. It couldn’t matter less in the scheme of things. He’s off to Nepal. Why Nepal and not Rangoon or Karachi? Why not? Gangs of Nazis attack him in Cairo when simply walking up to him in a crowd and shooting him would be simplicity itself. This isnt a movie we hold to the standards of adult logic. There is an elaborate chase on horseback and truck that accomplishes absolutely nothing plot wise. Two scenes later the Nazis have the ark back. The ark gets transported to a remote location via submarine. What the hell for? And then there’s the ending. A literal deus ex machina so outrageous that in a more sophisticated film it would be taken for satire. If this weren’t a children’s story we might be inclined to ask why, if the Almighty is inclined to incinerate Nazis, he would permit WWII to happen at all. But it is a story for children and we don’t ask. All good fun. But perfect?

    • mulesandmud

      Guess I’ll take the bait here.

      I agree that ‘perfect’ is a strong word. On the other hand, only one of your criticisms even approaches an actual story problem (see below), and many are willfully ignorant of clear answers given in the film. (e.g. the submarine is far from arbitrary: Indy escapes by sea and the Nazis must intercept him, cut and dry). Maybe you’re bored or I’m missing a joke, but you seem to be calling the film childish while reviewing it like a child would, with a bottomless game of ‘But why?’

      The point worth discussing is the ending, which others before you have taken digs at for removing agency from Indy by tying him to a post. Personally, I find the Raiders ending to be wonderfully thoughtful, intentionally privileging character and thematic concerns above formulaic action, and toying with our expectations beautifully. The fact that Indy has lost and been captured makes us expect a dramatic escape, but that never comes. Instead, the final opening of the Ark is a nightmare version of what Indy, the secular collector, has wanted all along. Indy’s journey is completed not by a big save, but by his rejection of the secret knowledge he’s been chasing in favor of faith (in the magic that he’s dismissed as hokum) and love (with the woman he’s pushed away for years). The climactic juxtaposition of the horror/glory of the Ark against Indy choosing not to see it (“Close your eyes, Marion!”) is truly brilliant stuff.

      The fact that the first draft went a more traditional chase-and-win route supports the idea that the revised ending, while a deus ex machina in a literal sense, is in fact a conscious rejection of the kind of autopilot storytelling that people usually smear with that phrase. The movie is making a choice to do something different, and it resonates.

      • brenkilco

        My “But why” observations were intended, unsuccessfully it seems, to suggest that the action in the film is alternately simplistic and arbitrary. As admittedly it is in a seral, so I wouldn’t necessarily count it as a fault unless one is trying to make the movie into more than it is. In old serials despite much running around after each episode the situation remains much the same. In Raiders the central sequence, the chase, could be cut out without effecting the plot progression at all. The Nazis still end up with the ark. Forgive me, I would count this a story defect in a serious film.

        An inactive protagonist at the climax is a problem. It would have been preferable for the hero to defeat the villains through his own ingenuity. But divine retribution arriving out of the blue is a much bigger concern. Nice of God to wait until all the action beats had been hit before smiting the evil doers. But seriously, are you suggesting that this old school kid’s matinee picture is a tale of judeo/christian faith regained? Faith in what? Some arbitrary deity who rouses himself to annihilate evil only when somebody lifts the lid off some celestial cookie jar? If you treat this movie as anything but shallow kid’s stuff, it quickly becomes offensive.

        • Scott Crawford

          “Perfection” within the limitations of its genre and story. Proof? 23 years, many, many imitators, three sequels… and no equal.

        • mulesandmud

          Either you’re misremembering the film or intentionally misrepresenting it. To recap:

          In the ‘central chase’, as you call it, the Nazis do not end up with the Ark. Indy takes it from them. End sequence.

          He then says goodbye to Sallah, leaves Egypt by boat, and finally rekindles his romance with Marion with the Ark in hand.

          It’s a false victory, though. In the morning, the Nazi’s have intercepted the boat, and this time take both the Ark and Marion.

          Do you consider all of that the ‘central chase’, or just the first part?

          Regardless, plot develops. Circumstances change. Stakes and goals shift. If your issue is with any film where the advantage moves back and forth between protagonist and antagonist, or an film in which people fight for control of a MacGuffin, there’s not much I can say here.

          Also, awfully condescending of you toward children’s films in general. You seem to imply that by nature they can’t carry weight of archetypal theme.

          And as for the inactive protagonist ending, it’s a longstanding debate. You can side with the guru party line, I’ll side with the beloved classic, and all’s well that ends well.

          • Scott Crawford

            What you’re describing, as I see it, is what most movies are; a delayed climax. Let’s look at Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, which I watched again recently. In THAT film, the MacGuffin – The Holy Grail, the cup of Christ – is not found until the end.

            To get the Holy Grail, Indy must a) find the second marker (he’s read the first marker at Donovan’s place) – the second marker tells him that the quest must start in Alexandretta (his father’s Grail book shows the path FROM Alexandretta, but his father was never able to work out the name of the starting place); b) Indy must rescue his father from the castle and escape the Nazis; c) Indy and his father must recover his father’s book from Berlin; d) the Jones must escape from Berlin; e) Indy must rescue Brody, and then his father, from the Nazis; f) Jones must go through the three obstacles and recover the Grail.

            Alright, bit complicated. But you could just have Indy find out where the Grail is, go there, go through the obstacles, and collect the Grail. Then the movie would only to be a half-hour long.

            Even the sequence in Berlin and the escape by Zeppelin, it’s there more for entertainment, and to surprise, and in a sense EXTEND the adventure. Having rescued his father (b),f Jones could have used the diary to go straight to (f). Or what if Indy’s father hadn’t been kidnapped. Well then Indy wouldn’t have gotten involved in the adventure….

            … and so on. To ME, this is storytelling. It’s not always artful. Much of the time your just creating stuff simply for the sake of making things more complicated for your protagonist. The back-and-forth of the Ark, from a certain point-of-view, is about making the adventure as exciting as possible
            for the audience, rather than a logical reality-based progression.

          • brenkilco

            Some movies are just one damned thing after another. The early Bond films. The Indiana Jones Films. There’s a structure but it’s really there to hang the set pieces on. And if the set pieces are entertaining enough the movies can be great. And very rarely they can even be art. North by Northwest is one of my favorite movies. It’s fairly picaresque. Lehman could probably have easily rewritten the script and eliminated the crop duster scene. Its not integral to the story. But it is one of the greatest suspense scenes in movie history so who cares?

          • Scott Crawford

            Exactly, thank you.

          • JakeMLB

            But that’s exactly what the quest or adventure story archetype dictates. This is an adventure film. Hero and protagonist are after the same object. What else would you want of it? Is there a better adventure film in your mind? And the “this is not art” argument is tired and dated.

          • brenkilco

            A better adventure film. Hm, Well certainly there are better written adventure films with more interesting character relationships. Raiders, after all, wouldn’t have been half as much if anyone but Spielberg had directed it. And I don’t think the adventure paradigm is as narrow as you indicate. Even exempting all war films, thrillers, swashbucklers and westerns- and there are scads of these that would qualify- the variety of adventure films is pretty broad. Offhand I’d put on the top of my list Gunga Din, Only Angels Have Wings, To Have and Have Not, The Man Who Would be King, The Wind and the Lion, and, yes, Lawrence of Arabia. Ok Lawrence is a war film but it’s so exotic I’m giving it a pass. A half dozen very different movies, but all adventure films and none featuring a hero and villain pursuing an object through a series of set pieces.

          • Scott Crawford

            Those are some great films, although arguably not adventure like Raiders. Maybe Raiders best action/adventure. Or maybe some of the Bonds.

            Problem is as character stuff goes in, something has to come out. Spielberg himself has said that, if he knew the film was going to be more successful, he would have made it more esoteric. For me, the “You and I are the same” scene is great drama, and appropriate for this story. It’s about as much character stuff as you will get in a film like this, or a Bond film, or a superhero film.

          • filmklassik

            Most of these flicks meet the criteria — GUNGA DIN especially — but while LAWRENCE has a few rousing set pieces you are stretching the definition of “adventure” to call it an adventure film.

            And with TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT you are snapping it in two. Bogart’s my favorite actor of all time… Howard Hawks one of my favorite directors…. and TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT is a half-decent (if wildly overrated) melodrama. But an “adventure film”? Not sure I agree.

          • brenkilco

            I’d stand by Lawrence though it’s a lot of other things. As for To Have and Have not, perhaps it is too talky and low key to be considered an adventure picture. Just not sure what other pigeon hole I’d put it in. And I’m sure Hawks would say that a there’s plenty of adventure to be had in a bar just lighting somebody’s cigarette.

        • The_Shadow_Knows

          The divine wrath didn’t arrive “out of the blue”. The dire consequences of tampering with the Ark were mentioned early in the movie.

          • Scott Crawford

            There was cut dialogue with the old man who reads the headpiece to the Staff of Ra saying that you shouldn’t look at the Ark when it is opened. Should it have been kept in?

    • Bifferspice

      i love your posts, man, but you are wrong on so many points here!

      • brenkilco

        Think I’ll restrict myself to safer topics than dumping on Raiders. You know, like race, religion, marriage equality and guns.

        • Scott Crawford

          I think black gay Christians SHOULD be able to buy armor-piercing bullets.

          • JakeMLB

            Only if they refrain from calling Raiders art.

          • Scott Crawford

            Movies are art. Screenplays are really craft that can be SEEN as art by some. But most people who see a movie will never read the screenplay.

            And I think white straight atheists SHOULD NOT be able to buy armor-piercing bullets. No reason.

          • JakeMLB

            Screenplays are really craft that can be SEEN as art by some.

            No. And I think you’re very much in minority if you think of a screenplay as solely craft that is sometimes seen as art. That’s absurd. Ask any professional writer and most will tell you it’s part craft and part art. If it were all craft then there’d be no talent, voice or style component to it and any idiot with a college degree would be able to “craft” a script. There’s a reason that when you present two screenwriters with the same script you get entirely different unique versions of the same story.

            A screenplay is structural sure, but it tells a story. Storytelling is an art form. How you tell the story will change what ideas are being expressed and what emotions are elicited in the reader. I really don’t think it’s more complicated than that. I’ll leave you with a definition of art and you can decide:

            something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.

            If that doesn’t describe screenwriting then I’m not sure why anyone would bother pursuing it. Just because a film adds other elements to the script in no way takes away from the art of the script itself, it only adds to it.

          • Scott Crawford

            Thanks for the unnecessary tone, but I’ll reply anyway. A screenplay is a blueprint for making a movie, and that movie is art. In a screenplay, you’re trying to show how your story, your dialogue, etc. when brought to life by talented actors and a director, etc, WILL be art. But a screenplay is like an architectural plan for, say, The Taj Mahal. The Taj Mahal is ART. The architectural plane is CRAFT, what will become art.

            It is an abstract idea, but it is a valid one.

            Very few people (comparatively) read screenplays. Sure, a fancy description, a great line of dialogue, these don’t go unnoticed. Perhaps I should break it down further to avoid offence: STORYTELLING is ART; SCREENPLAYS are CRAFT; MOVIES are ART. So we are involved in creating art – in fact we are probably the most vital part of the artistic process in films – but it’s important not to get carried away and think that the screenplay you write is art.

            Yes, it’s a bit semantic, but it’s NOT an original thought. Google it.

          • JakeMLB

            The tone is deliberate because this kind of thinking is dangerous, dishonest and frankly dumb. It’s just another example of dumb people under-appreciating and misunderstanding screenwriting and the screenwriter.

            Your description of what screenwriting is reads like an elementary school speech. Thanks professor for clearing up how movies are made. And yes Scriptnotes did cover it and pointed out what a dumb notion it is that screenwriting isn’t writing or art. Even F. Scott Fitzgerald defended screenwriting as a new art form despite failing miserably at it.

            Your definition of art seems to focus ONLY on the end product of the process and fails to accept that the script in itself is very often the only product that results from the process and is very much a finished form of art. It meets the definition of art above and if you’ve ever felt any twinge of emotion from reading a script then you’ve somehow just experienced emotion from a blueprint. Funny that. Or maybe you’re just dumb and wrong.

            Craig says it best that screenwriting is a unique form of writing because it is meant to be translated “into another art form”. Let me translate that for you: the word “another” signifies that he views screenwriting as an art form. I love when people reference things that actually refute their point. And notice the umbrage he’s taking at the notion that screenwriting is not writing or art.

            So look, if you really believe this, actually speak to some professional screenwriters and tell them what you’ve said here. That movies are art and screenwriting is just a blueprint. Let’s see if they challenge you.

          • Scott Crawford

            “this kind of thinking is dangerous and dishonest”
            “Thanks professor”
            “Your description of what screenwriting is reads like an elementary school speech”
            “Let me translate that for you”
            “I probably can’t change your mind”

            Do you talk like this to everyone? I hope not. I hope you’re just picking on me. I don’t think I’ll be replying to anymore of your posts.

          • JakeMLB

            Apologies for the tone. Let’s just say it’s a sore subject! Edited the post to remove the snark!

          • Scott Crawford

            OK, fine – shake virtual hands – it was a great discussion, it’s a really interesting debate, maybe it’ll come up on another post and we can thrash it out again.

            I’m not touchy, I just think we should argue the points not each other. Any screenplays you need, let me know.

          • JakeMLB

            Fair points all around. Didn’t meant to attack you personally, it just boggles my mind that someone can think of it as anything but an art form. I mean it’s visual writing. If that isn’t art, I don’t know what is. But I think a lot of the anti-art thinking comes from people seeing bad scripts or bad films and thinking, “well, that couldn’t be art”. And the screenplay is just structure argument just feels silly. Most art has structure, it’s just seldom seen. A screenplay is a blueprint of a film as a preliminary sketch is a blueprint of the full colored painting. Does that mean the sketch isn’t art?

          • Scott Crawford

            Some more points, this is why a lot of screenwriter become directors or even novelists, to protect their work, their art if you like. But a screenwriter, usually, has no ability to protect their work as it is transforme into what it will ultimately become. If the screenplay is great, and you hope it will be, then it should be filmed as is, and maybe then they’ll be some recognition for the writer. But the way scripts are written and rewritten…

            … sometimes it’s a good idea to take a step back and consider that maybe screenwriting is a JOB. People who want to write for TV will almost certainly have to start by writing stuff that they’re not that bothered about. You have to start somewhere. Kinda like the “I don’t outline debate”, TV in particular has no room for ARTISTS. It needs creative types, sure, but screenplays are like Haikus, the creation is LIMITED by rules, the sort of rules that a painter, a sculptor, or a novelist doesn’t face, apart from the size of their canvass, the height of their sculpture, and the length of their book.

            I like being challenged on my ideas; it’s better than being sycophantically praised. And it’s a fascinating subject and perhaps we’ll have another chance to debate it on another web post.

          • brenkilco

            I would say that a craftsman is more than a draftsman. There is some degree of talent and imagination contained in his work. Something beyond mere technical proficiency. But something perhaps lacking the magical ingredient that would make the work art. And I think screenwriting is most often a craft. It is the least artistic of any sort of dramatic writing because it is the least whole. Novels and stories are complete entities. Plays, since they are intended to be viewed from a single vantage and often contain careful descriptions of the characters’ feeling, only slightly less so. But screenplays are something between a play and a blueprint. Terse, sometimes to the point of insufficiency, because everything in them is expected to be augmented by the talents of others. Perhaps some are art. But show me a script that strikes me as a work of art and my first though might be, why doesn’t the writer turn it into something else.

          • JakeMLB

            Your definition of art is more like the idiom “a work of art” which is an incredibly restrictive definition that has to meet your subjective, esoteric definition of something special enough in your personal opinion to be considered art. That’s not an objective or useful interpretation because it can’t be defined or debated and cannot be universally applied. Art is simply something crafted with imagination and skill that expresses important ideas or feelings. That’s objective and universal and to somehow suggest that doesn’t apply to screenwriting is again ignoring the definition and creating your own interpretation of what art is. There is art in EVERY aspect of screenwriting from dialogue to theme, tone, setting, character and so on. All of these are deliberate choices that are chosen in such a way to tell a story in the most visual and emotionally exciting way possible. As Craig Mazin has said, screenwriting is a bizarre form of art because it’s meant to be translated into another art form but that doesn’t somehow make it not art. To suggest such is really quite naive and suggests you haven’t spent much time writing or listening to writers.

          • brenkilco

            Craig Mazin has written that screenwriting is an art. He’s also written Scary Movie 4 and Identity Thief. Maybe I am naive. I’m sure missing something.

          • JakeMLB

            Fine, take it from F. Scott Fitzgerald if you’d like. Of course not everyone shares that opinion but I think it’s a destructive and rather silly opinion to have because to suggest such overlooks the creativity and story telling aspects of screenwriting. It tries to paint the craft as something simple, like hey, it’s just a blueprint right? There’s no unique expression going on here. You’re just drawing an emotional blueprint. If that’s how you choose to view it so be it. I’ve been in this debate before and it’s pointless.

          • brenkilco

            Oddly enough, by all accounts Fitzgerald was a terrible screenwriter. An artist who could never get a handle on the craft. And no I don’t think screenwriting is easy. It’s not easy to create a great plot, invent memorable characters, craft brilliant dialogue, or to structure the whole thing for maximum dramatic impact. In fact it’s so difficult that it hardly ever happens. If it were easy the majority of movies wouldn’t be disposable junk. I don’t know whether the script for Chinatown was art, or art waiting to happen, or a superior piece of craftsmanship elevated to art by the filmmakers. What I do know is that in the forty years since it was written Hollywood has generated few scripts that match it.

          • JakeMLB

            I don’t know, Raiders was pretty good :)

            Ultimately it depends on how you define art and you seem to reserve that word for something special in your opinion. That’s fine I guess but as I’ve pointed above, doing so really destroys the meaning of the word because it turns into something subjective. Nowadays more than ever, scripts themselves are often the final form of the story they seek to tell, never to be made into film. And if a script can make you feel emotion or express important themes or ideas through a story that’s been crafted with skill and imagination, well then who are you to say that’s not art? It might not be good art, but it’s still art by the most literal of definitions. Screenwriting is writing, and in that sense very little separates it from novel writing, playwriting or any other form of fiction.

            I’ll leave it at that since I know I won’t change your mind. Just something to ponder. I think you do a disservice by calling it anything but art because it comes off as derogatory and devalues the process. There’s a reason that screenwriters are no longer considered disposable studio staff writers and part of it was the recognition that screenwriting is more than simple craft.

          • brenkilco

            Are screenwriters genuinely more respected today than they were back in a time when the studios hired Fitzgerald and Faulkner, Chandler and Hammett, courted Hemingway unsuccessfully, couldn’t wait to get Broadway heavyweights like Lillian Hellman, Preston Sturges and Ben Hecht out to the coast? Yeah, screenwriting could be an assembly line but for the most part the people hired had literary track records. Today you have the comic book assembly line where a half dozen credited and God knows how many uncredited junior scribes grind out each piece of Marvel swill like sausage. Dunno.

          • JakeMLB

            Your argument seems to hinge on because bad screenwriting exists it cannot be art. That’s not a very strong argument because there are many terrible artists across every art form. You’re obviously coming at it from a very anti-Hollywood stance which is fine but you shouldn’t let that cloud your judgement of screenwriting itself.

          • Scott Crawford

            Jake, Jake, please…

            “you haven’t spent much time writing or listening to writers”

            There’s no need for that. You don’t know my personal circumstances, and I won’t load you with them. But there’s no need to talk to me like that. I agree with your points, and I’m happy to debate with you, but not if you’re going to keep insulting me.

          • brenkilco

            Actually I think he was insulting me with that one. But clearly he has enough venom to go around.

          • filmklassik

            “…everything in them is expected to be augmented by the talents of others.”

            Agreed. It is mainly this point that keeps even the most finely crafted screenplays from rising to the level of art.

          • Midnight Luck

            I disagree.
            I think screenplays are MORE of an ART FORM than many other writing practices, SPECIFICALLY because you need to figure out how to be a compelling visual storyteller in such a short, restricted, difficult and limited way. You really have to STRETCH yourself, your skills, and your storytelling without making it seem cliche, by the numbers, boring, dull, plain, mechanical, obvious, repetitious, and expository.

            I think anyone who can write an engaging story that sucks you in and keeps you there, while you imagine amazing worlds in your head, but has done it with the basic template structural outline that is a screenplay, is a writer both AMAZING and BRILLIANTLY GIFTED.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I also disagree.

            The greatest storytellers are commercial ads agencies. They have 30 seconds to a minute to sell you a product. Their pitch, execution, and closing is minimalism done to perfection.

            We have 70 pages minimum and no (true) upper limit.

          • Scott Crawford

            Upper limit at Warner Bros. I think is 121 pages – they won’t accept anything longer. Look it up, it might be online.

          • Midnight Luck

            I agree.

            I have been in Advertising in my entire life.
            Working Ad Agencies in So Cal and Portland doing copy and design.

            That sh*t is hard. Really Hard.

            And oddly rewarding as well.

            I find writing, much, much more rewarding however.
            Screenplay writing has a lot more art to it in my eyes.
            And a million times the reward.

          • brenkilco

            You have a point. And how depressing is that?

          • Scott Crawford

            It’s not really about agreeing or disagreeing. It’s was a short comment made shortly before I went to bed. But it is an interesting point that a writer has to be both artist and craftsman. Personally, I think many screenwriters need a little more craft – their ideas are fine, their writing frequently brilliant (thanks to the internet, most know what a script should look like). But the long, directionless scenes, the lack of surprise as the writer just reveals everything without suspense. These are some problems.

          • Midnight Luck

            That is true. Art and Craft.

            Even if the average public never sees the physical script though, the magic is there.
            The film will never become without the script. And the script will never be without the film either.
            The Director is always seen as THE Artist, and the Writer largely forgotten.
            I believe the Writer is a great artist. Needing such magical slight of hand as to seem entirely invisible, while creating worlds of beauty with only words.

            But, that is me.
            And we all have our own beliefs about the Writer.

          • JakeMLB

            Yes, I truly find it bizarre that anyone could think of a screenplay as merely a blueprint. Do people really think that?

            And yet they’ll say the score is art, the performances are art, the direction is art, the cinematography is art, the final film is art but the screenplay!?, the very foundation upon which everything is built, that guiding light which directs everything from character to theme to story to cinematography to score to direction to tone to pace and to performance, NO, that certainly isn’t art!? It’s just a blueprint from which art is magically created? I just find that so hilariously prima facie.

            I just think there is a stigma that art has to be something grand. It doesn’t have to. It can simply be bad art.

          • Midnight Luck

            Exactly what I am saying!

            Why has the script been referred to as “the Blueprint” of a film forever? It minimizes people’s idea of who a screenwriter is, and what they do. Therefore, they are treated as the lowest person on the totem pole, and generally their income suffers for it.

            I believe that the Screenwriter is suffering even worse right now, because the majority of films being made come from other properties. So, the feeling is even stronger of “well, they are just taking the Book / Comic / Graphic Novel and slapping it down in script format. A trained monkey could do that. There really isn’t any Art or skill to it.”

            That might seem simplistic, but I think there’s truth to it.

            The Foundation of an entire movie IS created by the Screenwriter, within the script. It is ludicrous to think it has no affect on the outcome of a finished movie and what the Director / Actors / Cinematographer has done to make the finished product.

            How many Unscripted movies have been made that were Great movies? From all the ones I have seen, they have been terrible lost messes. Usually they don’t have a cohesive mood, the storyline jumps around making no sense, and Especially the ad-libbed dialogue is trite.

          • JakeMLB

            Glad we’re on the same page. I find the term “blueprint” derogatory and as you say, it only feeds the mentality of the screenwriter as somehow lesser to the process than everyone else. Which of course is ludicrous.

          • Midnight Luck

            Glad we are too.

            I really don’t understand that even writers on here are talking about a screenwriter as being just someone making a schematic and dropping in the bits that are needed.
            So basically the thought is: if you know your contained thriller should be under 100 pages but over 89, should all take place in one room, should be a thriller / drama, and have one or maybe two characters in it (preferably the main one is a guy as they bring in the numbers better at the BO), well, there you go. All the Script-ment-er need do is throw a guy or two in there, type some words until it hits page 90, slap a name on it from a computerized “name generator” (http://www.kitt.net/php/title.php ; you can also get Romance or Sci-Fi specific titles) based on some key words, and it is good to go. There is no Art needed because that is where the “real” artists come in. The Actors? the Director, the Foley, hell, even the Caterer is probably considered an “Artiste” because of the sandwiches and carrots they make, but not the Screenwriter. The writer just plops in those needed bits and pieces, then the Director (artiste!) turns that soup into an Oscar Nominated Film.

            Makes me think about years back when I was a Barista*. I had never drank coffee, had no interest in any of it, and had no idea anything about beans, the machines, or basically anything about the culture. So the owner teaches me how to pull shots, grind beans, steam milks, the proper portions to make a delectable Latte or Cappuccino, or even pull a short shot for the perfect Espresso. All this was based on the way they did it at Cafe’s in France. So I learn my new trade and start slinging Brown Water to the crowd. Once I knew how to do it, and understood everything about the amounts, styles, etc to make perfect cups of whatever, I just STOPPED using measurements and recipes. I just made everything by feel, with my gut. I didn’t even THINK about what was needed or amounts. Well, it got to the point where tons of people were asking for me, by name, to make their drinks and no one else.
            So what was that? Art or Craft? Yes it could be I just happened to always make the exact perfect balance of the right amount of cream and sweetener to espresso. I could have just gotten lucky.
            I really don’t think so.
            To me it was Art.
            Art is done using your intuition, your senses, and only using your logic mind as a basic guide. (*this story is in no way meant to puff myself up, it is just a demonstration of what being an Artist might mean)
            Many Barista’s are considered artists, as are Brewer’s of Micro brew. As are Chef’s, as are….well the list goes on and on.

            I have real trouble thinking all any of us script writers are doing is making a basic blueprint and slotting the necessary THINGS needed in place. I am creative, I am artistic. The things most necessary for me to succeed at writing a script are based in Art, not mechanics. If anyone ever called a Novelist a blueprint maker because it is just going to be turned into a movie anyway, well, people would shit a brick and freak out. Screenwriting is a form of writing like all others. Takes an amazing amount of skill, creativity, artistic sensibilities, and pure imagination. With a minor understanding of structure to make sure the foundation is there to hold the story together.

            Just shoot me if what I write ever becomes just slapping someone else’s notes together to form a “decent” blueprint that someone else is going to shoot. If I become just a day (or night) laborer forced to dump out words as someone else barks at me, I will stop doing this. I do NOT ever want writing to become a “job” (it should NEVER be a Job), slapping down words. I never want to just be a body for hire to get the words on paper someone else can’t, or more likely, doesn’t want to spend the time doing, by themselves, in a room. If I am doing this, putting heart and soul in it, it BETTER be Art, and it better include a lot of my soul.

          • brenkilco

            There’s something appealing about your argument. Screenwriting is such an anti-artistic form that only the finest artists can transcend it. Not sure that it works out in reality. Playwrights need to be able to craft great dialogue. Novelists need to be able to write compelling prose. As screenplays are mostly structure a screenwriter can get by without being a master of dialogue or prose. And as has been pointed out here in the past, while any number of novelists have penned fine screenplays, the list of writers who started out as screenwriters and subsequently penned a quality novel is awfully short.

          • Midnight Luck

            I think scripts like SOCIAL NETWORK and AMERICAN BEAUTY or absolute art.

            That being said though, the majority of scripts are (sadly) just blueprints.

            The master writer though, turns this basic black and white page into huge worlds of beauty and art.

            I believe the best screenwriters are some of THE master artists. Taking such a small, simplistic looking item, and pulling such boundless and beautiful life from it.

          • Scott Crawford

            Can’t disagree with that. Gotta have both. Pure artist won’t kill his darlings. Pure craftsman has no darlings to kill!

  • Randy Williams

    Wasn’t that memorable and funny scene between Indy and the swordsman originally written as a long drawn out fight and Harrison Ford was sick during shooting and wanted back in the trailer and said, let me just shoot the guy?

    As for fleshing a villain out, a member of my screenwriting group told me to imagine the villain totally succeeding in your story . Which I tend to like, anyway, at least give the villain some satisfaction because most people are sheep.

    • Scott Crawford

      The swordsman was played by stuntman Terry Richards, who I just learned died in June this year.

      I love villains and I think a problem in recent years is that writers have created villains they hate, usually by making them CIA, mercenaries – you know, Republicans. Hans Gruber is a great example – you can’t like what he does (killing people, stealing other people’s money) but you like the way he does it. He’s smart. Trouble with some villains is the writer wants to make them stupid so it will be easier for the heroes to beat them.

      • Midnight Luck

        I agree.
        Stupid villains don’t work.
        It makes the story too simple for the Protag and boring for the reader / viewer. You have to make the villain so interesting and smart and even running the edge of being a “good” person that you aren’t completely sure if you like / love / hate them. Then they are interesting. Taking Hans Gruber as an example, when he does die in the end, you actually feel bad for him, and almost wish he didn’t, because you want to see more of him on screen. To me, that is the greatest Antagonist. Someone, who if put into a different set of circumstances with the Protag, they might actually like each other.

        I have troubles when writers make villains simply “bad” and hero’s plainly “good”. It inspires nothing in the viewer and ends up being a boring dead fish of a story. Human character is so complex and constantly changing that absolutes in personality are fairly rare. This leads the feeling of falseness in the viewer and doesn’t allow them to mental engage in anything going on.

        One caveat though, the more psychotic someone is, the more “set” their personality and character attributes seem to be. They have less flexibility and shades of grey to their inner character and personality. The viewer can grasp and go along with them and their “black and white” thinking. The greatest thing a writer can do then though, once they have set up this supposed limited thought process is to completely surprise the reader by having the Antagonist go against their nature.

        • brenkilco

          Hitchcock really understood this. Bruno is the most interesting character in Strangers on a Train. And Claude Rains the villain in Notorious is extremely sympathetic. Sure he tries to poison Ingrid Bergman but he genuinely loved her and she betrayed him. And there’s a great scene at the end of Rear Window where the villain comes into Jimmy Stewart’s apartment and instead of immediatly attacking him says “What do you want, a lot of money? I don’t have any money.” And even though he’s murdered his wife, he’s so desperate you feel bad for him.

          • Scott Crawford

            Hans Gruber has a couch brought in for one of the hostages when he finds out she’s pregnant… even though he plans to blow them all up at the end! Is he just sticking to his cover story, making the pregnant woman think she’s being released, or is he showing SOME kind of humanity? It’s ambiguous, and therefore fascinating.

            Problem I think is that there’s this screenwriting meme going ’round that you should bad guys as if they don’t know they’re evil. I get the point but I disagree; Gruber knows what he’s DOING is evil – he just doesn’t care. He doesn’t kill out of sadism – he instructs his men only to “wound” the S.W.A.T. team. He wants the money, and to get away with the money, he needs to blow up the hostages.

            The most boring, cliched villain is the one who kicks dogs, shouts at his staff, and murders people who spill his drink. We get it, he’s evil. Look at Robert Davi as Sanchez in Licence to Kill – you really like the guy. Not only is he funny and personable, he sticks by his word. Loyalty is VERY important to him, and if he has to kill someone, well, it’s just business, not personal.

            But he’s also paranoid, paranoid about the people who work for him, that they are conspiring against him (some are). Bond uses this to destroy Sanchez by tricking him into killing his own men. By the end of the story, Sanchez is BREAKING HIS WORD by running off with the money. Clever storytelling.

          • brenkilco

            It’s time to start cutting overhead.

          • Scott Crawford

            Exactly. There’s no reason for him to shoot that guy – except that he’s irritating! Total about face for that character, and that’s a good thing.

          • Midnight Luck

            “The most boring, cliched villain is the one who kicks dogs, shouts at his staff, and murders people who spill his drink. We get it, he’s evil. ”

            exactly what I am saying.
            This is the typical fashion that so many “bad guys” are drawn as. This doesn’t work. Because it is too simple. It is too cliche. It is plain BORING.
            And I don’t believe people buy it.

          • Midnight Luck

            This is why Hitch was so great. He REALLY understood the psychology behind storytelling and the way people perceive what is going on in films. I am truly amazed by him. So many incredible choices, so many wonderful films.

          • Scott Crawford

            He liked the villain in Frenzy MORE than the hero.

          • brenkilco

            Yeah, the hero was sort of glum and disagreeable. Whereas the killer was charming and helpful when he wasn’t being psychopathically homicidal. And Hitchcock loved to create scenes where we route for the villain. Whether it’s Robert Walker retrieving his lighter from the sewer grate in Strangers on a Train or the villain in Frenzy retrieving his tie pin from a very stiff stiff. In thrillers it very often is all about the villain.

          • Midnight Luck

            awesome. just awesome.

    • ripleyy

      A villain is essentially a hero in another story. If you switch the story around, a villain is a hero trying to succeed in the opposite. You think of it that way, it adds depth.

      • brenkilco

        A great villain should very nearly be able to convince the audience he’s right.

        • ripleyy

          Exactly. Great acting is blurring the line between reality and fiction, tricking the audience into thinking an actor has fully embodied their role. A great villain, as you have mentioned, is essentially the same thing. Their goal needs to be just as strong into tricking the audience into believing they’ll actually succeed.

      • Scott Crawford

        I agree, but as I’ve noted in another post, I don’t entirely agree with this idea that a villain doesn’t think he’s evil. The best villains (in my view anyway) know what they’re doing is evil – they just don’t care.

        “The Jackal” in Freddy Forsyth’s The Day of the Jackal is going to kill the President of France for money. He knows shooting people is wrong – he doesn’t care; he wants the money.

        Maj. Vic “Deak” Deakins (John Travolta) in Broken Arrow wants money too, but also to stick it to the USAF by stealing their nukes and holding America to ransom. He was passed over for promotion, but this is unimportant to him; he views himself as ABOVE the others. It’s a good film, that, seen in the right way; quite clever. At the beginning, Travolta and the hero, Christian Slater, have a boxing match. Travolta wins, but he’s disappointed because he doesn’t feel Slater was at his best. In the final fight, Slater wins, and as death approaches, Travolta looks almost pleased – he’s lost, but he’s finally got Slater to do whatever it takes to win.

        Anyway, like you said, a villain has to be an equal to the hero, storytelling-wise, otherwise he’s just a “guy”.

        • Franchise Blueprints

          I agree, but as I’ve noted in another post, I don’t entirely agree with this idea that a villain doesn’t think he’s evil. The best villains (in my view anyway) know what they’re doing is evil – they just don’t care.

          I agree.

          I’ll add this I hate when villains are winning or have actually won and do something extremely dumb because of EGO.

          HEAT- Why did Waynegrove have to be killed?

          BLOW – Why did he tell Danny Up his connect?

          American Gangster – Why did he try for one more shipment of heroin, when he was already rich?

          Scarface – Why did he kill Manolo?

          Mesrine – Why did he always spend every last cent he stole?

          Outrage – Why did he remain loyal knowing the Yakuza were setting him up?

          Sin Nombre – Why did he fall in love with a girl in enemy territory?

          City of God – Why did he rape that girl in front of his gang, knowing his charm only protected him as long as he remained a virgin?

          ect. ect. ect

          • Scott Crawford

            I don’t hate it – I think it’s an important part of storytelling. The villain is FLAWED, just like the hero. Ego, greed, paranoia, sadism. Unlike the hero, the villain can’t recognize his flaw in time to save himself. That’s how the hero defeats him.

  • http://brockchandler.com/ Brock_Rox

    Raiders being my all-time favorite film, I decided a few months ago to go through the film scene by scene and, comparing it to the screenplay, outline exactly what happens and when in the film. It was an invaluable experience and it proved to be a great way to see what makes a film that I’ve seen probably a hundred times work so well.

    Here’s an example of the format I used:

    –Opening Teaser Sequence – Peru Jungle, 1936 —

    -Mystery +build-up

    -(3:10) Meet the MC (Main character) in his element

    -This sequence, much like the James Bond films, is meant to show the MC on a “normal” day.
    -A showcase for his skills

    -First thing MC does is take down an attack

    -Introduce the MC’s Special Weapon

    -A slow, mysterious build in an interesting environment, culminating in an ACTION SEQUENCE

    -(10:00) Meet the Antagonist (Belloq) having a direct interaction with the MC.

    -A sort of “Save the Cat” moment where we see how hard the MC worked to get the idol and the Antagonist takes it away with force.
    -We instantly hate the antagonist and love the MC that much more.

    -Scene ends with a chase sequence and the MC narrowly and heroically escapes.

    -Set up the MC’s fear (snakes)

    —Scene Length: 13 Mins | Script Length: 12.5 pgs (1-12)—

    What surprised me is how Spielberg, Kasdan, et al front-load the exposition in pretty much a single 8-minute scene with the Gov’t Agents and then the movie essentially becomes a chase sequence until the end. But, the key here is that he’s drawing very clear pictures (literally) of what they’re going after and why it’s a big deal. What helps in this movie is that the audience generally goes into the film knowing that the Nazis are very bad people, so Spielberg & Kasdan have that on their side. We know that if the Nazis get this MacGuffin, VERY BAD things will happen.

    Also, almost everything in this movie is about set-ups and payoffs. The illustration of the ark in Indy’s Bible shows you exactly what will happen when the Nazis open it at the end. He draws the picture of the Staff of Ra, so you know what will happen when that shows up. The burn on Toht’s hand from the headpiece and how the Nazis are able to use the map room.

    Finally, this film is a great example of hiding exposition when you have to get it out. When Indy and Sallah are at the old man’s home getting the headpiece translated, there’s the imminent danger of the poisoned dates throughout. If this scene played out without that danger/tension, it would border on boring. Even when Indy & Marion are just walking through the market talking about their past, we intercut with the Agents of Evil (as I call them) and we know that things are about to get ugly.

    Raiders is a film that I could watch any time and still enjoy. This outlining/analyzing process worked so well that I’m planning on doing it for all of the films that I love in order to break down the “why” they work so well. Great article Carson.

    • Scott Crawford

      Glad to see I’m alone in breaking down movies to see how they work, though I must admit I’ve not (yet) done a movie/screenplay comparison. Nice work.

      And I watched Raiders a week ago, then the two sequels later, and it’s still a great film. The poison dates scene – serious stuff in a comic book movie, the down angle through the fan, the pizzicato violins on the soundtrack!

      • JakeMLB

        Breaking down film is important but comparing script to screen is probably even more helpful. Almost every produced film is different, sometimes enormously different, than the written drafts out on the interwebs. It’s an amazing process to compare script to screen. Analyzing the differences is invaluable as they represent distinct choices that the writer/director made during rewrites or edits, for better or worse. If you can understand why the choices were made, particularly major ones, it should help to build your own decision-making skills. Screenwriting is nothing more than a million choices so any help in that department is important. Look no further than Edge of Tomorrow for a recent example. Cruise came on board and immediately recognized that the main character lacked depth and distinction and the entire script was re-written around a new, more cowardly, more accessible character. Pretty awesome choice!

        • Linkthis83

          Listening to writer and/or director commentaries on movies are also extremely helpful for this. Especially when you learn that some choices were made because of reasons other than story, but they get referenced as examples of excellent the “writing” is. :)

          The script for IDENTITY is really close to the finished product. That disc contains a writer and a director commentary.

          • JakeMLB

            Great idea! I usually listen to interviews or podcasts with writers/directors where they discuss script/film choices, but not the actual DVD commentaries which are probably scene-by-scene. Any others you can suggest?

          • Linkthis83

            The ones I remember that I enjoyed recently have been:

            THE LAST SAMURAI
            SE7EN
            WOLF CREEK
            MAN ON FIRE
            DONNIE DARKO

            I’ve also been watching a lot of horror type films recently so I’ve listened to commentaries on SAW and a little flick from 1997 called CUBE – which had a great opening scene (minus the terrible CGI), but it sure set the tone.

            I think movies that are writer/director films are really good for this. Because they get to create their intention. Rian Johnson hates writing scripts, but knows they are necessary to create the film. DONNIE DARKO falls under this category by Richard Kelly. Also, this was Kelly’s first script and he wouldn’t sell it unless he was attached to direct it. And he was eventually granted that opportunity by Drew Barrymore’s company at the time. Just great stuff.

          • mulesandmud

            An unusual commentary recommendation:

            THE GODFATHER, PART 3

            A famously bad movie, sure, but a profound and moving commentary experience. Coppola is so frank about how many fights he lost with the studios, how many things he did wrong, how brutal of an experience it was for his daughter (who got slaughtered by critics in a leading role). You can really hear him fighting with his own ego as the movie rambles on behind him.

            I believe at one point he says: “This film is a testament to my diminished power in Hollywood.”

            Pretty sobering stuff, but a one-of-a-kind perspective.

          • Malibo Jackk

            Love the commentaries.
            Have noticed a difference in language between amateurs and the pros.

            Amateurs tend to repeat textbook. Pros tend to illustrate and/or inject emotion.

            See DRIVER commentary for comparing it to fairy tales.
            Listen to the EMOTION when Shane Black talks about LETHAL WEAPON or anything about screenwriting.

        • Midnight Luck

          Just thoughts on Edge:
          And why didn’t more people go to Edge of Tomorrow?
          There are so many Sci-Fi, time travel, space fans in the Country / World, I was shocked at how little it did (at least in the US), compared to what I thought it would do.
          What was it missing to bring people in?
          I do think ALL YOU NEED IS KILL was a way better titled, though they probably feared it would scare viewers off as it sounds too aggressive. But to me Edge sounds too wishy washy and doesn’t elicit any kind of interest.
          Maybe people truly are against Cruise anymore. Maybe he did kill its chances of succeeding.

          Too bad. The last two Sci-Fi movies I have wanted to see and was extremely excited to see were ELYSIUM and EDGE OF TOMORROW. Sadly they didn’t deliver. Edge was the better of the two, but even I, personally, am a bigger fan of Matt Damon than Tom Cruise.

          • JakeMLB

            I think you’re right in that it was the marketing and branding of the film. The distributors have already re-branded the film — that’s right they changed the title to “Live. Die. Repeat” — for the Blu Ray release so they probably recognized their failure there. Someone probably got fired.

            http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/live-die-repeat-warner-bros-second-guesses-edge-tomorrow-title-blu-ray-release/

          • Midnight Luck

            Interesting.
            So the Tagline of the film becomes a Title?
            Strange and yet so Hollywood-like.

            I bet they never thought the title Edge of Tomorrow would be such a miss. They probably thought it was So Cool and Futuristic and Hip. But instead, yeah, whoever actually came up with it, or was pushing it hardest, probably got canned.

          • Linkthis83

            I was really enjoying EOT until it became a film like every other film. I don’t have the answer for what they should’ve done, but I was let down by it. I did enjoy 75% of it. Also agree that it should’ve stayed ALL YOU NEED IS KILL.

            Cruise had a really good run, in my opinion, with VANILLA SKY, MINORITY REPORT, THE LAST SAMURAI (love), COLLATERAL (really loved except for the final showdown but still love this movie), WAR OF THE WORLDS, and even MI:3. Since then, I’ve really enjoyed KNIGHT AND DAY and even JACK REACHER. Yep, really enjoyed JR.

          • JakeMLB

            Totally agree, the final act was a bit of a letdown but I LOVED everything before it. And agreed on Cruise. I can’t help but love the guy. I didn’t like the Reacher script but I really enjoyed the film. Minority Report is probably one of my favorite films of all time and Collateral is fantastic. For all the guff it got, I loved Oblivion too. At least the first half. Especially the script. The first half of the script is some of the most powerful visual sci-fi I’ve ever read.

          • Linkthis83

            The trailer ruined some first act stuff for me. Showing me Morgan Freeman in the trailer took all the suspense and tension out of the Scavs. I already knew who they were.

            The visuals are fantastic. As well as the soundtrack. The big reveal of TC’s character was a bit of a let down because I had watched MOON just a few days before.

            And the moment where the TC’s are fighting and the gun goes off I thought “She better not be fucking shot” and she was. People are allowed to love movies for their own reasons. Except maybe 47 RONIN (jk kidding 47R fans)

          • Scott Crawford

            I thought Melissa Leo’s repetition of “Are you two still an effective team?” was creepy, and the payoff really clever. Great actress.

          • JakeMLB

            Totally forgot that was Melissa Leo. She’s pretty great. And yes, that has to be one of the creepiest and clever lines in modern sci-fi.

          • Scott Crawford

            I thought Jack Reacher was a really enjoyable movie, though I wish the story was maybe a bit more… more. Not familiar with Lee Child’s other books, although I suspect they may be more complex, etc.

          • filmklassik

            Lee Child doesn ‘t outline. Never, ever. He just makes his stories up entirely as he goes along…and it shows (to me, anyway).

          • Scott Crawford

            Lee Child is a NOVELIST.

          • filmklassik

            That he is. Author of, to date, something like 19 or 20 Reacher books, and Child has spoken quite candidly about the fact that he doesn’t ever outline them.

            His novels are devoured by millions of readers every year, so I am clearly in the minority on this, but I think I’ve read three or four of them so far and the slipshod plotting has bothered me.

            …And so, by the way, has the superhuman infallibility of his main character. I guess I prefer the human-scale vulnerability of a character like John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee, whom Child has cited as one of his chief influences in creating the Reacher books, but that’s a subject for another time.

          • Midnight Luck

            I really liked Jack Reacher, even though it was a bit “thin” overall, but still enjoyable. I loved Collateral and Vanilla Sky (even though I enjoyed the original movie it was a remake of even more: OPEN YOUR EYES; it did all the same things in a very low cost simpler way, yet was extremely effective and worked more seamlessly than VS). I haven’t seen War of the Worlds or The Last Samurai, wasn’t a big fan of Knight and Day, and though I enjoyed Minority Report, I didn’t love it. I am not a huge Spielberg fan, I think his Direction can be average at best on many of his movies. I think the Phillip K. Dick story it came from could have been just phenomenal had someone like David Fincher done it instead, or even an ALIENS time James Cameron film. Spielberg can just be way to schmaltzy for me.

            I figured out that I was really enjoying EDGE up until the second half when it was all battle scenes and Aliens. I seriously believe it fell apart because of the Snyder Save the Cat rule not to break: DOUBLE MUMBO-JUMBO:

            ——“I propose to you that, for some reason, audiences will only accept one piece of magic per movie. It’s The Law. You cannot see aliens from outer space land in a UFO and then be bitten by a Vampire and now be both aliens and undead. That, my friends, is Double Mumbo Jumbo.”—–

            I could suspend my disbelief easily when it was a futuristic Groundhog’s Day. As soon as it ALSO became a movie about Aliens, it began to Rapidly fall apart. You just can’t accept BOTH those notions in the same movie. It became completely Ridiculous. I wish they had found a different reason for him to be repeating the same day in his life over and over. I guess then it just would’ve been a future version of Groundhog’s Day completely as he fell in love with Emily Blunt’s character. Still, they could have figured out something. Probably wasn’t as big of an issue with the Graphic Novel though. Easier to suspend your disbelief with multiple things in comic form.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            I liked Jack Reacher more than I thought I would. I just don’t like how the sniper at the end sorta gave up so Cruise could decisively whup his ass. I didn’t like the old Russian passively surrendering. I would have preferred if he electronically locked the door and set off a time bomb. Otherwise I look forward to the sequel.

          • Franchise Blueprints

            Edge of Tomorrow sounds like a James Bond title.

          • Midnight Luck

            Yes, except that the Bond films have more of a Cadence to their sound and structure.

            Die Another Day
            A View to a Kill
            The Living Daylights
            The World is not Enough
            The Man With the Golden Gun
            You Only Live Twice
            Live and Let Die

            Something about Edge of Tomorrow sounds too Harsh or stilted. It doesn’t FLOW for me.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

    “But the difference here is that Spielberg and Lucas gave Kasdan 100 pages of notes.”

    Not true.

    In January of 1978, the trio of creatives met for a weekend long story conference.
    Kasdan was there and made plenty of contributions to the idea pool.
    Even though Lucas did most of the yammering, big shocker.
    The most fascinating part is how they later “raided” this document for the sequels.

    Many of the cast-off ideas from this epic meeting were recycled later in the franchise.
    For instance, Marion was originally a Mata Hari-type, which grew into Ilsa for Crusade.

    I wrote a series of posts about the entire 126-page document over on Simply Scripts:
    http://www.simplyscripts.net/cgi-bin/Blah/Blah.pl?b-screenwrite/m-1289238295/s-new/

    • Linkthis83

      Hey Electric, I checked out WIDOW’S WALK yesterday. I liked it. I can’t wait to see it if you do get it made.

      –One of the things I thought as I was reading was “He should’ve brought somebody to keep re-lighting the candles” — lol.

      It also forced me to Google what a widow’s walk is – very cool.

      • Poe_Serling

        “It also forced me to Google what a widow’s walk is – very cool.”

        Same here.

        What is kinda nifty about the title – even though you might not know what a widow’s walk is at first, it still lends itself well to a horror project.

        • Linkthis83

          Definitely. It’s one of those things that when you hear what it’s called think “That should be the title of a movie.”

          A while back there was an amateur script (I forget the name) but it stated that this particular prison was a “panopticon.” I had no idea what the hell that is so I had to look it up – also very cool.

          https://www.google.com/search?q=panopticon&rlz=2C1GGGE_enUS0538US0538&espv=2&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=Bs_0U7u4FY2uyATEjYCADg&sqi=2&ved=0CC8QsAQ&biw=1680&bih=917

          • Franchise Blueprints

            It sounds like a prehistoric decepticon. Okay no more puns unless they involve the Stay Puff Marshmallow Man vs The Michelin Man. And on the undercard BIG BOY vs TUBBYS. And the most famous avatar match of the year The Colonel vs Dave Thomas.

          • Poe_Serling

            “It’s one of those things that when you hear what it’s called think “That should be the title of a movie.”

            Twelve hours later…

            Director Tarsem Singh has signed to direct a film called The Panopticon – an “original action-thriller featuring sci-fi elements” and scripted by Craig Rosenberg.

          • Linkthis83

            brilliant. :)

        • Franchise Blueprints

          I thought he got chased by black widows as a kid…. nevermind.

      • http://www.linkedin.com/pub/brett-martin/52/702/72 ElectricDreamer

        Big thanks Link and Poe for keeping the buzz on WIDOW’S WALK alive.

        I grew up with those things all along the New England coast.
        Sadly, I doubt the WW script would ever get made as a short.
        It’s cost prohibitive and skimping on the atmosphere would kill the story.

        But, I did write an ALT. ENDING that could be a prologue for a feature.
        That’s the only way I could ever see anyone funding my supernatural tale.

  • Linkthis83

    According to Amy from THE BIG BANG THEORY, the character of Indiana Jones plays absolutely no role in the outcome of the story. Just something to ponder, I never had. If anybody can refute this, I’m sure they exist here on SS :)

    • Sebastian Cornet

      I think Carson himself wrote that in his book. Goes to show breaking the rules every now and then doesn’t spell out the end of the world.

      • Linkthis83

        I think it also helps illustrate that once you’re invested in a story that remains consistently entertaining, you are no longer outside of it question it — you’re just along for the ride. And when we enjoy the ride, we rarely go back to find out why we should’ve disliked it. It doesn’t matter. And for an adventure story, this one works. It doesn’t really matter if he didn’t.

        • Sebastian Cornet

          You can say that again. I was watching Aliens for the millionth time last week and I started counting all the stupid-ass mistakes the Marines made that gets their asses kicked.

          I looked at the list, shrugged, and kept having fun.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yeah, I kinda don’t wanna know that my favorite films make no sense. If I couldn’t spot the plot hole back then, if it has to be pointed out years later, I couldn’t care less. A story free from plot holes is PROBABLY a boring story. Hitchcock actually LIKED plot holes; he told Anthony Shaffer that they encourage conversation about the film – rather like here!

    • http://brockchandler.com/ Brock_Rox

      Except that Marion would have died when the Nazis went looking for the headpiece to the staff. Indiana wouldn’t have been there to save her.

    • Scott Crawford

      Indy’s choice to go from “I don’t believe in magic, a lot of superstitious hocus pocus.” to “Shut your eyes, Marion. Don’t look at it, no matter what happens!” is a choice that saves his life. His decision not blow up the Ark with the rocket launcher allows the Nazis to open and be killed by it.

      At a certain point, in a good story, of course, you can’t have your hero still solving everything himself. The argument against “Deus Ex Machina” is that it’s a cheat, but that’s life. In life, things are usually out of people’s hands.

    • JakeMLB

      If you mean the final outcome (the Nazis killed by the apparitions in the Ark) then sure… but even then… it was only because of Indy that the Nazi’s acquired the Ark so he is indirectly responsible for the outcome. You could argue that the Nazis would have found the Ark in spite of Jones had he not been involved but that’s not true to the actual story. And as others pointed out, Jones could have destroyed the Ark but chose not to.

      • Linkthis83

        I don’t have a stance on this, but in the clip it’s stating that the Nazis would’ve found the ark, taken it to the island, opened it and still perished. Whether or not Indiana was involved.

        I found it to be an interesting and thought provoking assessment.

        • JakeMLB

          Fair enough. It is interesting to think of what other films would end the same had the protagonist not been involved. Probably not many!

        • Franchise Blueprints

          If she continues to use that type of logic, her virginity will remain intact.

          Sooo if The Emperor wasn’t in Star Wars, Anakins parents would still be killed and Padme would have still died. And the Dark Side would have emerged regardless.

          I believe that’s an new exercise for all screenwriters. Can your script be reduced to the same outcome without the inclusion of your protagonist?

          • Linkthis83

            I think the big distinction would be that it isn’t the Emperor’s journey that we’ve been following the whole time, like with Indiana.

      • Scott Crawford

        Important point, not sure if it’s been brought up: Indy isn’t looking for Ark for FUN, or even for archaeology necessarily. He’s being PAID to do it. He’s an adventurer, a “soldier of fortune”, maybe not as mercenary as Belloch. But he’s still getting, I’m guessing maybe $15,000 for the job (he’s promised Marion $5,000 for the headpiece), maybe $20,000. College professors don’t make much, even in 1936, I’m guessing. Side projects are really important.

        So if Indy HADN’T gone after the Ark, he couldn’t bought himself that new fancy suit he was wearing at the end!

    • Ken

      There’s that moment when Indy could have blown up the Ark with a rocket launcher but can’t bring himself to do it. So Indy was actually in a position to stop the Ark being opened but, as an archeologist, he can’t bring himself to do it – which adds to his character.

      • Linkthis83

        I really don’t have a side on this, but playing devil’s advocate, I’d say it’s uncertain that the Ark would blow up had he shot it with the rocket launcher. Perhaps they all would’ve died the same horrible death that the Nazis suffered at the end.

  • Howie428

    What you’re describing here is a successful development process. Unfortunately, it now seems that this is the part of the industry that is most dysfunctional.

    Studios have given up this kind of work. Producers used to do it, but now search for pre-developed work. It has been bumped all the way down the line to the writers, who are expected to crush and polish the coal until they have a diamond, only to have intern readers declare that sapphires are in fashion!

    It’s not an accident that the few companies that have internalized a strong development process are leading the industry. Pixar, Marvel, Apatow, Nolan, Abrams, Cameron, Spielberg, etc, are all known for using a team process and taking the time to develop projects.

    • Scott Crawford

      Mostly agree. I think there is still a lot of “product development” in Hollywood, maybe less experimentation. Raiders was experimental, for its day.

      But don’t knock “pre-developed work”. That can include spec scripts and most of us are trying to write and sell those!

  • cjob3

    Anyone have a copy of this draft? cjob3(at)Hotmail. Thanks!

  • Poe_Serling

    OT: Congrats to Rachel Woolley – her recent AF script The Introvert’s Playlist just made it into the semifinals of the Scriptapalooza contest.

    • Midnight Luck

      awesome.
      Way to go Rachel!

    • Scott Crawford

      Yeah, way to go! Couldn’t have happened to a nicer person!

    • Logic Ninja

      Completely deserved! Nicely done!

    • Rachel Woolley

      Thank you! And thanks to everybody again for all the feedback!

      • Ryan Sasinowski

        Congratulations!!!

    • Randy Williams

      “The biggest trouble with her is the noise”

      Anyone know what movie that line is from? Not from Rachel’s Scriptapalooza semifinal romantic comedy hit.

      Congrats Rachel!!

      • Scott Crawford

        Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

  • Scott Crawford

    I BELIEVE that Spielberg was in talks with Cubby Broccoli about directing, probably For Your Eyes Only.

  • Scott Crawford

    I think the camels went when the budget went from $40 million to $18 million. My theory.

  • Linkthis83

    1) Per Wiki: In film production, a setpiece is a scene or sequence of scenes whose execution requires serious logistical planning and considerable expenditure of money. The term setpiece is often used more broadly to describe any important dramatic or comedic highpoint in a film or story, particularly those that provide some kind of dramatic payoff, resolution, or transition. Thus the term is often used to describe any scenes that are so essential to a film that they cannot be edited out or skipped in the shooting schedule without seriously damaging the integrity of the finished product. Often, screenplays are written around a list of such setpieces, particularly in high-budget “event movies”.

    Setpieces are very often planned meticulously using storyboards, screentests, and rehearsals, in contrast to smaller scenes where the director and actors may be more improvisational. Each action requires the combined efforts of different departments: set builders, physical effects, and special visual effects. On most films, different groups of people will work on different setpieces individually since they can take a long time to prepare before shooting. For example, the car chase in The Matrix Reloaded took months to prepare and cost $30 million, including $5 million to build the freeway set.

    Examples[edit]

    Notable examples of setpieces include the Snake Pit in Raiders of the Lost Ark, the Death Star Trench Run from Star Wars, the storming of the volcano lair in the James Bond film You Only Live Twice, and the burning oil rig in There Will Be Blood. Alfred Hitchcock referred to setpieces as crescendoes or “bumps” and tried to put three of them in each of his movies. In Psycho, these are the shower murder, the murder on the stairs, and the discovery of “Mother”. One of the most well known setpieces is the “Ride of the Valkyries” helicopter attack scene in Apocalypse Now whose planning was shown in Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse.

    And: http://gideonsway.wordpress.com/2011/04/06/what-is-a-movie-set-piece/

    http://whatculture.com/film/10-awesome-set-pieces-that-were-ripped-shamelessly-from-other-movies.php

    • Scott Crawford

      I think I wrote some of that article years ago! The Matrix Reloaded talk is me, I’m always going on about budgets!

      Setpiece is one of those terms, like MacGuffin, that gets tossed around a lot, and, in my opinion, is misused; people say a MacGuffin is irrelevant, but the Ark is not irrelevant, it’s in the the title. Some people will say a FIGHT is a setpiece – I would argue a setpiece is something that requires a lot of planning and preparation, maybe storyboarding.

      The opening scene of The Dark Knight Rises is a good example. Nolan hates “pre-vis”, so the only scene he pre-vis’d on Rises is the opening… because it was so bleeding dangerous.

      It’s also, arguably, unnecessary. The information in that scene could easily have been told elsewhere. But then, an “action movie” without setpieces… is a “movie”.

    • Franchise Blueprints

      Wow I thought they closed down a section of some freeway. I had no idea it was a set piece! The logistics of building a freeway seems a huge waste of money, unless the stunts were so intricate that they needed absolute control over every variable possible.

      • Scott Crawford

        They needed absolute control – there were some dangerous stunts – but they also wanted to keep the whole thing secret. They even directed the scene from their trailers. It’s on the DVD and it’s… revealing.

  • Linkthis83

    2) I’d suggest BACK TO THE FUTURE. From what I’ve heard, this was awful in its early stages and took years to finally take shape into the form that allowed them to create the classic film. Eric Stoltz was also originally cast to play Marty McFly. I think it was two weeks into shooting before they brought Michael J. Fox in. It’s hard to imagine how that would’ve turned out. It could’ve been worse, or even better with Eric. Lol.

    Here’s a link to the first draft:

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/7lzbr5akhq4h37a/Back_To_The_Future_1_(1985)_1981-2-24_1st_Scan_copy_-_reduced.pdf

    Here’s a link to the fourth draft:

    http://www.mediafire.com/view/7wa83dkpqizz1qd/Back_To_The_Future_-_fourth_draft_-_10.21.84.pdf

    From scribemeetsworld, a two part article comparing the first draft to the film:

    Part 1 = http://scribemeetsworld.com/2011/screenplay-vs-film/writing-for-movies-back-to-the-future/

    Part 2 = http://scribemeetsworld.com/2011/screenplay-vs-film/writing-for-movies-back-to-the-future-part-2/

    Here’s a link to the SS article Carson did previously:

    http://scriptshadow.net/screenplay-review-back-to-the-future-original-1981-draft/

    And here’s the top comment from that day by Poe_Serling:

    Thanks for the article, Carson!

    Here’s one of my favorite stories behind the making of Back to the Future:

    “Sid Sheinberg, the head of Universal Pictures, made many small changes to the movie.
    “Professor Brown” was changed to “Doctor Brown” and his chimp Shemp to a dog named Einstein. Marty’s mother had previously been Meg, then Eileen, but Sid Sheinberg
    insisted that she be named Lorraine after his wife Lorraine Gary. According to one of the DVD commentaries, Sheinberg also did not like the title, insisting that no one would see a movie with “future” in the title. In a memo to Robert Zemeckis, he said that the title should be changed to “Spaceman From Pluto”, tying in with the Marty-as-alien jokes in the film. Steven Spielberg replied in a memo thanking him for the wonderful “joke memo” and told him everyone got a kick out of it. Sid Sheinberg, too proud to admit he was serious, let the title stand.”

    Kinda highlights the notion that even a slight change in your script could have a big impact on the overall story and how it is perceived.

  • Scott Crawford

    True, he’d directed Duel, Sugarland Express, Jawsl, Close Encounters, and 1941. Two modest successes, two smash hits, and one flop. But Jawsl, and 1941, and I think Close Encounters had all gone overschedule, overbudget.

    Lucas said in an interview with Mark Kermode that the studio wouldn’t give him $40 million unless someone else (or himself) directed the movie. Lucas had to content with just $18 million (about $46 million today) AND had to keep a tight rein on Spielberg’s extravagances.

  • Scott Crawford

    Sometimes you just can’t decide in an outline what stays and what goes. As long as the BASIC story is sound, and the main locations, major characters are all there, sometimes you have to just to script and see what works. Then cut and paste.

  • ripleyy

    It’s funny how it has influenced adventure movies since. I know, personally speaking, I had an idea for an adventure movie, and no matter how far removed it was from this film, it still had inspirations that crept in. The best movies inspire people without even making them realize.

    That said, it would be fantastic if we had another solid adventure movie like this. “National Treasure” is something less to be pleased about, and it was clearly trying to be the next best thing. It wasn’t.

    Sadly, no movies this generation or the past decade has really deeply inspired people. I don’t find “Inception” creeping into my work. It’s a shame though.

    • Scott Crawford

      i enjoyed National Treasure – and some of the sequel – but it felt like it had been put together by a committee of extremely-talented industry veterans (Jim Kouf, writer of one of my favorite films EVER, Stakeout).

      Raiders feels more personal. Before Raiders, no one would have done a period action/adventure. AFTER, they’re all doing it. Only not so good, because they’re only doing it because of the SUCCESS of Raiders, while Lucas, Spielberg, and I guess Kasdan, were just doing something they LIKED. It’s the only explanation I can think of for its success. I’m not a big Tarantino fan, but it’s that sort of thing – it’s people thinking about the movie they liked, and still like, and doing something SIMILAR, but with their own ideas.

      The Republic serials? Lucas. Preston Sturges-esque dialogue? Kasdan. The look of the film I guess is Spielberg and his DP, Dougy Slocom. A lot of credit to Michael Kahn for editing, the FX guys, Richard Edlund, Ben Burtt, Johnny Williams, of course, and the stunt team – Glenn Randall, Terry Leonard, and the great Vic Armstrong.

      But – this is my theory – you can’t copy a copy. You can’t do another Django Unchained. You wanna do another Django Unchained? Do what
      Tarantino did; think about the movies you like that not all that many people know about, then do YOUR version of it. It might not be a western, it might be a French gangster film, or a Busby Berkley musical, whatever.

      YOUR inspiration is like – I gotta put it this way – a pulse of energy, and hopefully EVERYONE who works on that project, on that script, will be INFECTED by that energy, and will do their best.

  • fragglewriter

    I would love to read this script. Please e-mail me at fragglewriter at yahoo dot com

    • Ryan Sasinowski

      Sent!

  • K.B. Houston

    I know I’m in the extreme minority in saying this, but I think Indiana Jones was essentially THE precedent of the mindless, over-produced tentpole action movies we see today. While Raiders was a somewhat original fruit, the subsequent sequels that followed were nothing but leftover pulp, with Temple of Doom being downright offensive to anybody with a semi-functioning brain.

    As few have already mentioned, Indian Jones movies should in no way function as touchstones for aspiring screenwriters. Outside of the concept, these movies are teeming with itinerant plots that wander wherever they damn well please and feature grandiose hyperbolic set pieces where Indy is either beating up certified militias or escaping from fantastical situations that make Saturday-morning cartoons look credible.

    People say these movies are fun, light, meant to be flippant, yada yada yada. And I understand that. But Guardians of the Galaxy played by those same rules and still crafted a masterful storyline with unique characters and brilliantly convinced set pieces, all while intertwining style, taste and humor in a seamless fashion.

    I’m ranting at this point. And I don’t want to do that. I’d just advise aspiring screenwriters to think twice before crowning this some sort of masterwork. Indiana Jones is favorite amongst film darlings because of its franchise-inducing elements. That’s why it appears on “Best of” lists — because it made lots of money for people who vote on those types of things. But when it comes to STORY — the Holy Grail for screenwriters, the thing we quest for on a daily basis — Indiana Jones probably serves more as a guide for what not to do than as a blueprint for success.

    • James Michael

      You know I do see the point that your trying to make in claiming that Indiana serves as a precedent for summer tentpole movies. In terms of over-the-top action scenes, far-fetched plot-lines and franchise inducing elements but I think it’s unfair to blame poor old Indy for this.
      When Raiders came out we didn’t have the Marvel Universe to look forward to each summer (i say look forward to becuase I’m an adamantt supporter of these movies) or Michael Bay was rapeing the box office every other year. So it feels like you’re almost blaming Indy for what has been created in his wake, not the path that he set out on originally.
      Alot of these tentpole films now unfortunately took these ‘bad elements of the film (loud noises, explosions and ridiculous action sequences) and left out what made the movie so great in the first place – the characters and the heart behind them. The reason sequals were possible is becuase Indiania Jones is such a great character that we want to hang out with him more then once on as many adventures as possible. Can you blame us?
      I think ultimately as a screenwriter this should be the goal. Whether you’re writing a blockbuster or indy film (is that a pun?), the characters we create are what keeps us coming back for more. A lot of tentpole movies nowdays forget that i think (who was the main guy in Transformers 4 again?).
      But then again maybe i just get a little defensive when Indiana Jones is brought up. rant over

  • Scott Crawford

    Totally and utterly agree, and some lost setpieces are a shame. But this one really just was an odd one, it stands out as an unnecessary expenditure. I’m surprised it took until filming to realize that, that’s all,