Friday, March 26, 2010


Have you ever read one of those scripts that starts with the main character just kind of hanging around doing nothing? Or a character tells you in expository language what's wrong with them -- maybe they're having a chat somewhere being dull. Sometimes writer take the concept of "Ordinary World" (those first ten pages) a little too literally. There's a notion that you have ten pages to grab your reader. I would argue that you have one. The first page. Why not start your movie there? Instead of showing us some dull ponderous moment jump right into the action.

Take a look at the opening page from Knocked Up.


BEN STONE, 23, cute in a chunky Jewish guy sort of way, boxes one of his roommates, MARTIN. His other roommates, JAY and JASON fight with broom sticks. JONAH drinks beer on the couch spectating.

Quick Images:
  • We see Ben and Jay fighting. At one point they fight with gloves which are on fire, balancing on a plank over a dirty pool.
  • Ben now has a fishbowl filled with weed smoke over his head. There is a smoking joint in his mouth, making the bowl get cloudier and cloudier. He starts coughing hysterically and takes it off.
  • A boom box is playing. The boys are now free style rapping. It is terrible but they are having a blast. Pot is being smoked. Beer is around.


Ben and roommates ride a terrifying rollercoaster.

ALISON SCOTT, pretty, 24, wakes up to her radio alarm.

Okay - that was actually half a page. We met the two main characters and we know plenty.

Here's what we know:
  • Ben is a man child.
  • Ben and his friends love pot and love having a good time.
  • Ben probably doesn't have a job. I'm guessing this from the context.
  • Anything is possible with these guys. They're not your run of the mill lame potheads. They actually came up with the idea to fight on a plank over a pool with burning gloves on.
  • I also met Allison - In one line I know that she's the opposite of them. How? Juxtoposition and she wakes up to an alarm clock.
  • She's got someplace to go. Probably a job. She's pretty - she takes care of herself...
  • Unlike Ben who is cute but chunky.
That was one half of a page. The writer here does not load the script down with a million camera angles and editorial comments ie: Ben knows that his carefree days are soon coming to an end. (Directors, I'm talking to you). He trusts that the reader can get the film without being pummeled by his vision. He creates an easy spacious read that gives us everything we need to know and just that. Save the vision for the shot sheet.

Different genre, here from Bourne Ultimatum:



MOTION -- flat out -- it’s us -- we’re running -- stumbling -- breathing rushed -- blood in the snow...

We are JASON BOURNE and we’re running down an alley... Supered below: MOSCOW
BLUE LIGHTS -- from the distance -- strobing through the night -- rushing toward us -- POLICE CARS -- three of them - - SIRENS HOWLING as they bear down -- closer -- faster -- until they whip past the alley...

Up against the wall -- BOURNE is hidden in the shadows.

BOURNE is badly wounded -- shot through the shoulder -- bruises and broken bones from the final car chase in SUPREMACY...

With a GROAN, he lifts himself up, staggers across a park toward a PHARMACY...


ROWS of MEDICINE and FIRST AID supplies, and in the background, a DOOR being jimmied...It’s BOURNE...The ALARM goes off...

MACRO ON -- MEDICINE BOTTLE VICODIN, as BOURNE grabs it...Then PENICILLIN... Then SURGICAL SUPPLIES: Scalpel...Forceps...Sutures...Cotton gauze...Betadine...

BOURNE finds a large sink...Rests his gun there...Lays out SURGICAL SUPPLIES...Checks out his back in the mirror...Opens the capsules of penicillin and pours the powder directly into the wound...Begins treating himself...

Okay what do we know?
  • We're on the run with Jason Bourne. Who is this guy?
  • He can run with a bullet in him and broken bones. That's serious pain. Who knows how to manage that kind of pain? Someone with special training. I'm thinking some kind of military training.
  • He also knows how to find a pharmacy in Moscow and treat himself. Does he speak the language? Maybe. More special training here. Knows how to jimmy a lock. Has emergency medical training.
  • And he's pretty cool about it -- there are Russian cops closing in but he's keeping his head as he REMOVES A FREAKING BULLET FROM HIS BODY!!!
  • Anything is possible with this guy -- I want to stick around and find out more.
And that was 3/4 of a page. Here in Bourne we see some shots described, but they're specific to the plot. We need that macro on Vicodin to understand what is happening.

When I write a script I like to look at how other writers, better writers, have done it. Those scripts become a standard. Am I writing something that's as good as? If not, how can I make it so? Am I being economical? Am I trusting the reader? Am I grabbing the reader as I introduce my characters? If not, why?

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