3 lessons television taught me about scriptwriting

Quentin Tarantino once said- ‘Movies are not about the weekend that they’re released, and in the grand scheme of things, that’s probably the most unimportant time of a film’s life.’ I wonder- In that grand scheme of things, where do broadcasting movies in cable networks figure? Is it the old age or is it premature death? Anyway, watching films on tv do give you certain insights about movie scriptwriting.

1-There are no ‘unimportant’ scenes.

Here is a test for every scene of your script. Suppose your movie is playing on tv. Some one clicks on the channel. This particular scene that you are writing comes on screen. The viewer doesn’t know the story, there are no recognisable faces- will he continue watching the movie? That is the test for the robustness of every scene that you have created.

We all tend to write some scenes on autopilot. How many times have we seen the portion where a police officer is introduced as tough and rough and how many of these introductions are really different? How many times have we seen a heroine being established as bubbly and carefree? Do all those scenes really stand out from each other? How many times have a psycho/ghost stalked our girl in a dark  room? Can’t that scene be banned for now?

Just a final example. How would you write opening and ending scenes of a movie about the rise and fall of a great boxer whose career finally gave way to animalistic rage, jealousy and sadomasochism? Think. And then watch Raging Bull. Continue reading

Heat

May be I am giving too much credit to the writer… May be this scene wouldn’t have worked well if it wasn’t for the dialogue delivery of Alpacino and Robert Deniro. But still what a brilliant piece of writing! Watching Heat after so much time my respect for it has only grown. So many poetic pieces of dialogue, a multitude of well etched characters and subplots, such a golden face off between lead characters without going hollow with superficial warmongering…

The challenge in this scene is to set up the meeting of two titans. They are arch rivals. They are going to fight it out till the last breath. Still they sit there, talking like two people who really admire each other. Only place where I felt the writer went overboard is where they talk about their dreams.