March 29, 2012

New Series: "Scrapt Writing"

I enjoy reading screenplays for movies I’ve already seen. First off, I mostly read scripts for stories I particularly enjoy, expecting to learn from the writer. So when I’m laboring over my own script, it helps to see a scene with complex staging on the page, to see what is or isn’t described. Or how great lines read on the page. How action reads on the page. But the most interesting parts of produced screenplays are the differences.

Few films exactly follow their screenplays. Woody Allen, for both
Hannah and Her Sisters and Match Point, is the closest I’ve seen. He notoriously demands line-to-line precision from his actors, but even Annie Hall departs from his script. And not just in the lines. The script had an assortment of comedic scenes that, I believe, were scrapped to fashion and emphasize a love story. In 9 of 10 scripts, scenes are cut or rearranged. Endings change. Dialogue always changes. Characters do completely different things on screen.


Perhaps scenes are cut for pacing or because they feel redundant. Or maybe the writer and director weren’t on the same page. Maybe an actor thinks up a better action to enhance a character’s arc. Or maybe he fears being perceived in a negative light and demands a change. The “why’s” are often explained on DVD commentaries or in Hollywood gossip books. But as an aspiring screenwriter, it’s both interesting and educational to speculate on why the filmmakers decided on these changes.

I’m not sure if this will be a weekly or bi-weekly thing, but “Scrapt Writing” will analyze scripts with pronounced changes on film. Each script will come from a known movie. Scripts for films like Apocalypse Now or The Thin Red Line will not be analyzed. I love these films, but the exercise is pointless for scripts that really only serve as a blueprint, scripts with little in the final product.

First up...Inglourious Basterds

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