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SimplyScripts Screenwriting Discussion Board    Screenwriting Discussion    Screenwriting Class  ›  scene dissection Moderators: George Willson
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  Author    scene dissection  (currently 1819 views)
leitskev
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 8:23am Report to Moderator
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An invitation for people to pick a movie scene so we can dissect why it works or doesn't work. Many great scenes are on youtube, so leave the link if you find one there. Or maybe Netflix, probably most can get on Netflix.

Can be a scene you love, hate, whatever. Let's just get under the hood and see what's going on.

Jeff, you're welcome to get us started. If you don't want to play, that's fine too.
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LC
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 8:43am Report to Moderator
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I love this scene. I love the pram scene in The Untouchables too... And countless others, in terms of suspense, but I won't get greedy.

Great idea for a thread, Kev.

I can't remember how to embed, if someone can assist... and then refresh my memory on it? Ta.

https://youtu.be/sqLc1ySL5PE

Thanks Pia! Embed won't work on mobile devices unless using the desktop version of YouTube



Munich
Steven Spielberg




Revision History (2 edits; 1 reasons shown)
LC  -  April 14th, 2017, 8:43pm
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Dreamscale
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 9:39am Report to Moderator
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OK, I'll play along...

Great scene, Libby.  It works very well.  Why does it work?  Well, let's see...

First of all, the scene covers a number of different locales, which makes it move and not feel stagnant.

We see the men plant the bomb in the phone and it's very clear what has to happen to make it explode.

We go outside and see the men are set up and ready.  Although we don't know this from the actual scene, it's understood that the father is the target, and the lookout waits until the mother and daughter have left the apartment, and then we're on.

But a big truck comes up and parks right next to the car where the triggerman and his cohorts are.  The lookout worries the signal may be blocked and runs over to check with them.  While he's there, he doesn't see that the mother and daughter have returned and the daughter runs back inside, up the apartment.

Oh no...will the innocent little girl be blown up?

Back inside the apartment we go, and the daughter obviously forgot something, and finds it just as the phone rings.  OH SHIT!  NO!!!

Since she's right there, she answers the phone, an calls her dad in.

Outside the lookout realizes the car has returned and the daughter must have gone back up.

In the car, the triggerman takes out the key to set the bomb off.  The daughter is next to her dad on the phone upstairs.  The lookout runs over to the car to try and stop the detonation.

Will he make it?  Will the daughter get blown to bits?

Ah, yes, just in time..he calls it off...ABORT!!!  The daughter is saved.  Thank God!

She runs back outside, gets in the car and off they go.  We're back on now.  Father is killed and mission successful.

What's so good about it?  Well, an innocent child is in danger and the fact that the killers go out of their way not to harm her, it humanizes them, and even though they're cold blooded terrorist killers, they save the child and the scene works on multiple levels with lots of tension, ending in a bang.

OK?  Are you happy or satisfied with that, Kev?  Looking forward to hearing your take on it.


To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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leitskev
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 10:24am Report to Moderator
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I agree with Jeff's astute observations. I can only add this:

3:10 the truck arrives, the lookout leaves position, things going wrong
3:38 girl returns unseen by lookout
4:38 phone rings and girl moves to answer
5:05 the girl is still answering...the look out man realizes the car returned
5:20 the bombing is finally aborted

This is the key juncture where the tension is established and milked. It lasts 2 minutes 10 seconds.

There are 2 "events" that build the pressure. First is the arrival of the truck. At this point is just the sense that the plan is unraveling. The second is when the little girl returns. We know she's going to be in danger. Then the phone rings and she rushes to answer.

Also note how the time when she moves to the phone and when the attack is aborted is 42 seconds. So they really stretch it out to milk that tension.

Can this be duplicated in the script? Obviously much of that is in the hands more of the director. But it's worth wondering if the same delay can produce tension in the reader.

For example:

INT. SUITE

The phone rings. The girl rushes to answer it.

EXT. STREET

The look out notices the mother's car and scratches his head.

INT. TERRORIST CAR

The red light come on on the trigger.

INT. SUITE

The girl picks up the phone.

  GIRL
Hello? Hello?

EXT. STREET

The look out runs to the car.

A passing hearse blocks his way.

He makes it to the car.

Inside, the trigger man begins to screw in the cap which will trigger the bomb.

INT. SUITE

The girl holds the phone...her father arrives.

  GIRL
Hello?

The father takes the phone, but she stands beside him

EXT. TERRORIST CAR

The lookout screams through the glass.

The trigger man looks up, but continues applying the cap.

  LOOKOUT
Abort! Abort!

The trigger man seems to not hear him.

  LOOKOUT
Abort!

Finally the triggerman looks up, rolls down his window, and puts away the trigger.


The point is to create that delay that allows pressure to build. Once you throw the live grenade, you milk it.
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Dreamscale
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 10:55am Report to Moderator
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Agreed.

The scene moves quickly, even though it is a 6 minute scene.  This is due to the fact that multiple "scenes" are included...multiple Slugs, multiple characters.  It's not stagnant.  Things are happening both inside the apartment and outside on the street and in the car.

This is the real key, IMO.  If this scene played out only showing 1 aspect, it doesn't work.  If the setup was such that it was only in 1 locale, it doesn't work.

Moral of this story, move your action around.  Have action/things happening.  Write it out, don't rely on someone else to work it for you.


To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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leitskev
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 11:35am Report to Moderator
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Yes! We don't leave it up to the director. You can create the delay where the tension builds for the reader. Here, they switch to other locations.

But sometimes that can't be done in certain stories. So are there ways for the writer to still do it?

I think so. The script can be really technical, using POV switches. But that doesn't read well.

What if the bomb was set to go off if anyone picked up the receiver?

INT. SUITE

The girl enters.

Moves to her

FATHER'S OFFICE

And gives him a kiss on the cheek.

The phone rings in the other room

  GIRL
I'll get it.

  FATHER
No, no, let me.

But she runs into

THE SUITE

...and to the phone.

  FATHER(OS)
Let me get it.

She puts her hand on the phone.

But doesn't pick it up yet.

The phone rings and rings.

Father enters the room.

She takes her hand off.

  FATHER
Bring it to me.

She picks up the phone.

Puts her hand on the receiver.

Walks the phone over to him.

He takes the phone in hand. She waits next to him.

  FATHER
Go outside.

  GIRL
Papa...

  FATHER
Go...

The phone rings and rings.

She finally runs out into

THE HALL

...closing the door behind her.

Booooom!


I think there are ways of writing the scene that stretch the suspense. You end up using more lines(though you create more white space). It's worth the price. If you can create that feeling of tension and suspense in the reader, you've strengthened the impression it will make on him.
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Dreamscale
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 12:08pm Report to Moderator
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Yep, that's good and that works, as well.

This way, however, it's a much shorter scene, so the tension, although "milked" for all it can be, is not nearly at the level of the actual scene.

One thing to point out, Kevin, you said something about writing more lines to stretch the suspense (while adding white to the script) as if it's a negative to writing more lines.

I disagree, as one should write as many lines as the scene needs to be as effective as it can be.  And, when "stretching" the suspense, we're also stretching out the runtime, so more lines should be used.


To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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leitskev
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 12:18pm Report to Moderator
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Actually we agree on that. But I know a lot of people think no line should be wasted. I mean isn't that the reason orphans are despised?

But we agree, more lines is a great way to lengthen the scene. This reflects the time of the scene, but it's also a great tool for creating that delay which builds suspense for the reader.
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Angry Bear
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 12:23pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from LC
I love this scene. I love the pram scene in The Untouchables too... And countless others, in terms of suspense, but I won't get greedy.

Great idea for a thread, Kev.

I can't remember how to embed, if someone can assist... and then refresh my memory on it? Ta.

Libby,

when you're at Youtube, click on the share button then chose embed. Copy the embed link.  


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Dreamscale
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 12:29pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from leitskev
Actually we agree on that. But I know a lot of people think no line should be wasted. I mean isn't that the reason orphans are despised?

But we agree, more lines is a great way to lengthen the scene. This reflects the time of the scene, but it's also a great tool for creating that delay which builds suspense for the reader.


You beat me to something I was about to point out, and it's about our little redheaded friends, we lovingly refer to as orphans.

This is EXACTLY why I harp about the little guys all the time - because they are a line waster, and a script can have so much more visual detail, tension stretching action, description.  When one understands how to alleviate wasted lines, by removing wasted, extraneous words, which also includes repetition (like repeating your Slug in passage, you open up space for the things you want to see in a script.

Space on the page is so valuable and also so limited.  Why waste it on things that aren't necessary?



To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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leitskev
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 12:41pm Report to Moderator
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I try to kill as many of the little tykes myself, whenever I can. Started teaching myself that on my first script, before I even had software or knew about SS.

But I don't really sweat them when reading a script. I mean if it's a 105 page script, does it really matter how many orphans there are?
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Dreamscale
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 12:50pm Report to Moderator
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Quoted from leitskev
I mean if it's a 105 page script, does it really matter how many orphans there are?


That depends.  If there are orphans on every page, then that 105 page script can be quite a few pages longer than it should be/needs to be.



To ski or not to ski...that's not even a question.
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leitskev
Posted: April 14th, 2017, 1:22pm Report to Moderator
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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=szUTBWoRTo0

Scarface

Quick thought on this.

I always look for hinges in a scene, turning points. I find most scenes have either one, or two, where the second turn reverses the first.'

I think in this scene, the first hinge is when Tony tells Frank he will go on the street and raise the money. This tells Frank that Tony has been making moves on his own. Frank no longer trusts Tony from this moment.

The second hinge comes when Frank implies that Tony made a deal with Sosa and is hiding something from him. Tony confronts him, walking closer, saying "you call me a liar?" One half expects them to draw weapons.

But Frank defuses the tension saying "let's just say I want things to stay the way they are." This is the moment when Frank decides to kill Tony. But his way is not like Tony's. Tony is always direct. Frank will hire assassins to do it.

The whole scene is pure confrontation. Frank doesn't trust Tony, and Tony, full of ambition, no longer respects Frank.
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BSaunders
Posted: April 15th, 2017, 3:37am Report to Moderator
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https://youtu.be/ZgYVgKNotVc

Chasing Amy when Holden confronts Alyssa about her past.

One if the rawest scenes I've ever watched. So relevant, so real.

Fucking adore this entire script from top to bottom.


Who dis nigger up on that ney?
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leitskev
Posted: April 15th, 2017, 8:38am Report to Moderator
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Great scene. Which highlights something we've not been discussing: that some scenes just can't be isolated structurally from the whole story.

Also, not every scene has a clear progression from A to B. Sometimes they go from A to B then end up right back in A. Or sometimes they never leave A. Maybe this scene is like that?

Yet it's still essential. It's a scene where the protagonist learns about his girlfriend's history, confronts her, and in the process confronts himself and begins to explore who he really is and what he really wants. So the scene is maybe a turning point within the larger structure where he begins that process of self discovery.

The scene itself works because, as you said, it's so raw. She spills her guts all over the battlefield.

And something else important: she's smart. She sees herself, she sees him better than he sees himself. That matters a lot. It raises her character to a level where we want to see her happy. We want to see them together. That heightens the story goal and the stakes.

And for guys watching this, it prompts our own introspection. How many times have we made such quick and unfair judgments about girls with a bad rep? This makes us uncomfortable...and BINGO!!!

That's why I launched this exercise. To gain insights...and there it is!

This scene creates tension because it causes the audience to look inward. Even women might look inside and wonder if they have judged other women too harshly, though this is more relevant for men in the audience. But making an audience uncomfortable by causing it to take a hard look inside...that's tension!!

Excellent!
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