ANGELS with DIRTY FACES

Angels with Dirty Faces and Truby

John Truby’s book The Anatomy of Story details how to write a story about a hero with a moral flaw. He teaches storytelling with moral argument, moral needs and moral vision.

In one of my favorite films, Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), James Cagney’s character Rocky is a tough gangster admired by all the street kids in his neighborhood.

When Rocky is sentenced to death the priest, Father Connolly, Rocky’s childhood friend, wants him to feign fear as he goes to the electric chair.

Connolly believes this will act as a deterrent to the street kids who admire him and want to be like him. They will see that gangsters aren’t cool, but cowards.

Rocky immediately refuses, but is faced with a moral dilemma: does he maintain his tough guy image and die a hero to the kids who idolize him? Or sacrifice his hero status to save them from a life of crime and perhaps the same fate?

Watch this powerful scene to see what happens:

In a stroke of genius by the filmmakers we the audience are not let into the secret if Rocky’s screams of fear are feigned or not. Perhaps they are real.

I choose to believe Rocky had a moral revelation and acted upon it, feigning fear and appearing ‘yellow’ as he went to the chair.

What moral dilemma is your hero facing?

 

Finding your unique voice

No matter who inspires us we all have our own unique voice.

I love what Michelangelo said:

I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.

I believe it’s the same with stories. Our stories exist within us. They are part of us. As artists this is our raison d’être - setting our stories free.

We are writers. And just because we haven’t sold a screenplay for a million dollars, it doesn’t make us any less an artist, any more than Van Gogh was any less an artist for only selling one painting while he was alive.

Even if we’ve never earned a dime from our writing, perhaps, one day, we will sell our Red Vineyard. But Did Van Gogh’s lack of sales stop him producing over 2000 works of art? Nope. He just kept on painting the canvas, as we must keep wording the page.

Our stories exist within us. They are part of us. All we have to do is carve them out and set them free. Our pens are our chisels (or rather our laptops).

But it’s not as easy as it sounds, for often the most powerful stories come from deep within, our internal struggles: our pain, our heartache, our fears – even if we write comedies, as playwright Trevor Griffiths explains in this NY Times article:

The secret source of humor is not happiness; it is pain.

Yet even though our stories may lie deep within, maybe even hidden away in places we dare not look or go, if we want to find our true, unique voice, we have to carve into our hearts bravely with words as sharp as Michelangelo’s chisel in order to excavate the truth of who we are – our needs, desires and fears.

Scott Myers touches on this journey into the subconscious in his post – Writing and the Creative Life: Dark Places - about how Carl Jung’s theories of the ‘shadow’ psyche relates to us as story tellers. He says:

We ourselves as writers go on our own psychological journey in the telling of our tales.

We may admire others. We may imitate others. We may desire to be ‘as good as’ other writers. But, in fact, each of us is absolutely, completely and entirely unique.

Yes, we can learn from those who teach story-telling, such as John Truby, whose teaching not only helps us to understand the nature of story and characters, but the nature of human beings and of life itself.

However, not until we dig down into the place where there is no more fear, where we have complete freedom to explore ourselves in every nook and cranny of our psyches, will we find our own voice and write a story so original, so unique, that only we could have written it.

That old phrase ‘I went traveling to find myself’ doesn’t have to be around the world. When we traverse the depths of our selves we find original stories that our fellow travelers on this journey of existence – sharing our universe yet living within the sphere of their own psychological worlds – will be enthralled, captivated and intrigued to read, watch and hear.

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Deconstructing Dialogue: The Town (part 2): exposition.

Read the scene here.

Watch it here.

The Town boasts an incredibly in-depth story world with complex back-stories and subplots. As Doug, the protagonist, says, “There’s a lot going on here.”

As this scene reveals information regarding three separate subplots I’m going to split it into three parts.

First, the back-story & subplot regarding the character The Florist which happens in the first few lines of the scene.

So, let’s study the dialogue from two perspectives:

First, what information is revealed?

Secondly, what information is concealed?

Let’s start at the beginning of the scene.

Doug approaches Jem not knowing what this meeting is about. He thinks it’s about the apartment.

However, Jem tells him he’s bought some information from The Florist about a potential robbery and now he has to do the heist and pay up.

But Doug tells Jem he’s not interested.

Let’s read the dialogue:

DOUG
Something wrong with the apartment?
JEM
No. The Florist.
DOUG
The Florist what?
JEM
Came through.
DOUG
Oh, Jesus Christ.
JEM
It’s large, Dougie. It’s large.
DOUG
We’re smoked. Punt it.
JEM
Who else is gonna buy it?
DOUG
You should have thought about that
before you fucking kept breaking
the guy out for forty dimes after
every job.
JEM
There’s an expectation rate.
DOUG
I’ll correct his expectation.
JEM
Oh, you will?
DOUG

Yeh.

Let’s look at the lines more closely.

From this we can see that Jem is paying The Florist after every job, even though The Florist doesn’t do any of the ‘heavy lifting.’

The heists are done by Doug, Jem and the other two men in the gang.

The Florist, Doug infers, gets a cut of every job they do.

But that’s just the way it is to Jem. But not to Doug. Doug is changing things.

In fact, Doug’s line:

I’ll correct his expectation.

is actually foreshadowing.

But look at Jem’s line:

You will?

When we watch the scene in action, Renner delivers this line with sarcasm.

Jem doesn’t believe Doug has the power, will, or ability to ‘correct his expectation.’

From these two words, from the way the line is delivered, we might think that Jem fears The Florist.

We learn later that Jem would rather die than go back to prison, when he says, in one of the best lines of the movie:

I can’t do any more time, Dougie. So if we get jammed up, we’re holding court on the streets.

(Watch this scene here).

In a previous post we noticed how Jem is actually scared of expressing himself emotionally. We learned how Jem and Doug love each other ‘like brothers’ and actually Jem is terrified of losing ‘Dougie.’ Jem’s a tough cookie with a soft centre; capable of extreme violence and incapable of expressing brotherly love – except perhaps through a play-fight – yet Doug reads between his lines.

Jeremy Renner manages to play this tough guy with immense vulnerability. It’s easy to see why he was nominated for an Academy Award for this role and why he’s become such an in-demand film actor.

OK, so back to our scene.

We’ve learned what the writers have revealed regarding The Florist.

Now, what is being concealed?

Firstly, there is a deep back-story regarding Doug and The Florist, concerning both Doug’s father and his mother.

Although we never meet her, Doug’s absent mother is a vital character in this story.

We learn from Doug’s dad that his mother was ‘no different’ than the other single parent 20 year olds he sees on the streets.

Doug’s father worked for The Florist, and, we learn, was a victim of his brutal violence.

So, these few lines of dialogue are hiding deep layers of back stories and subplots – yet the writers touch on them is as light as a feather.

How heavy is your dialogue?

David Mamet says people speak to conceal, not reveal.

How much are your characters revealing and concealing?

The Town

Deconstructing Dialogue: The Town (part 1)

To kick off 2014 year of analyzing dialogue we’re studying this scene from The Town.

(Screenplay by Peter Craig, Ben Affleck and Aaron Stockard.)

Read a PDF version of the scene here:

You can also read a studio version of the screenplay here.

NB. this script is different from the final cut that made the movie – but that’s another study.

The first aspect of the scene I’d like to look at is the power play between Doug (Ben Affleck) and Jem (Jeremy Renner).

(Analysis in brackets and in bold).

EXT. PROJECTS – PARKING LOT/CEMETERY – DAY

Jem waits for Doug by the ancient cemetery near the projects. Doug approaches him.

DOUG
Something wrong with the apartment?

(So, from Doug’s question we know that Doug doesn’t know why Jem has arranged the meeting. Jem has called Doug, and Doug doesn’t yet know why. So, we might say that at the beginning of the scene Jem holds the power. )

JEM
No. The Florist.
DOUG
The Florist what?
JEM
Came through.
DOUG
Oh, Jesus Christ.

(If you’ve yet to see the film The Florist is The Town’s ‘godfather’ gangster, played by Pete Postlethwaite, a fearsome Northern Irishman, whose ability to cut flowers symbolizes his trademark ability and pleasure to ‘cut your fucking balls off.’ A lovely rose he is not. Doug obviously doesn’t want to do the job, whatever it is. Power with Doug.)

JEM
It’s large, Dougie. It’s large.

(Jem tries to tempt Doug with money. But Doug has enough money. Jem’s bait doesn’t work. The power is still with Doug.)

DOUG
We’re smoked. Punt it.

(‘We’re smoked’ means Doug knows the FBI are watching them. Power: Doug.)

JEM
Who else is gonna buy it?
DOUG
You should have thought about that before you fucking kept breaking the guy out for forty dimes after every job.
JEM
There’s an expectation rate.
DOUG
I’ll correct his expectation.
JEM
Oh, you will?

(No one makes demands or disobeys The Florist. Jem tries to intimidate Doug. It doesn’t work. Power : Doug. It’s a one way fight so far.)

DOUG
Pick up an extra guy or go with three guys or… fucking be smart and boot it.
JEM
Oh so you’re not going?
DOUG
No.
JEM
Why is that?
DOUG
Because we got a ton of fucking heat on us for one thing.
JEM
We’ll put a move on them, right? We’ve done it a hundred fucking times before.
DOUG
You know what, forget it. Do what you wanna do. I’m done.

(Read a separate post on the difference between the studio script and the dialogue in this scene here.)

JEM
What?
DOUG
I’m done.
JEM
You’re done?
DOUG
What does it sound like?
JEM
What’s that.. what’s that mean?
DOUG
What the fuck do you think it means?
JEM
What does that mean you’re done? It sounds like a bunch of fucking bullshit.

(Why the confusion? Doug doesn’t want to do the job. More than that, he wants out completely. Why isn’t Jem just letting it go? And why is Doug even entertaining him? Why not just tell him to fuck off? If he’s done, he’s done. There must be more to it. There must be more to this relationship. Something deeper. Doug seems to be struggling to hold onto his power. OK, he’s holding his corner, but why take the questioning? In a previous scene with the Feds Doug runs rings around them with their questioning. What’s going on? The power balance is shifting. Power: shared.)

DOUG
Let me put it to you this way, I’m putting this whole fucking town in my rear view.

(OK, so there we have it. Doug states his outward goal – a reflection of the visual we get earlier of Doug watching the plane in the sky as he waits for his girl outside the cafe. Power, back with Doug.)

JEM
There’s people I can’t let you walk away from.
DOUG
What? Who?

(Confusion again. What is Jem talking about? Power unbalanced again.)

JEM
Come on!

(Doug realizes Jem is talking about his (Jem’s) sister, Krista and her young daughter, Shyne. So, finally, we get to what this meeting is really about – the subtext rises, and it’s not work, but family. Jem grabs the power.)

DOUG
Are you serious, Jimmy? She’s not my kid….
(beat)
Cut it out. All you give a fuck about is coke and Xbox and now you’re trying to play it off you care about Shyne, come on now!

(Doug ridicules him. Assassinates his character. Coke and Xbox. Doug uses humor to disparage him, snatching the power back easily.)

JEM
You know what your fucking problem is?

(Come on, Jem, fight back.)

DOUG
What?
JEM
You think you’re better than people.
DOUG
Uh-huh.
JEM
Mister fucking clean, mister fucking goddamn high and mighty, right?

(Some info on Doug. He’s clean. He was an addict. He goes to AA / NA meetings. We know that. But is Jem right? Does Doug think he’s better than the other people on the ‘projects’? Remember his back-story, he was drafted as a pro hockey player, got into trouble for fighting other guys on his team, and lost his opportunity. Jem is really pressing Doug’s buttons here. In Truby terms, this could be Doug’s moral flaw. Does he think he’s ‘better’ than other people? Or does he simply believe he’s capable of a better life than the one he’s living, the one he’s been born into? Who’s holding the power here? I would say it’s definitely not Doug, but possibly shared, because we’re not sure if Doug’s ‘uh-hu’ and his agreeing with and repeating what Jem accuses him of is him being truthful, or him being sarcastic. Therefore – Power: shared.)

DOUG
Yeh, I’m better than all these people, you’re right. I’m better than anybody in this fucking project.
JEM
Yeah, that’s what you think, but you grew up right here. Same rules that I did.
DOUG
OK. What else?

Beat.

(Doug’s three little words here are very interesting. Doug now knows why Jem has called this meeting. He’s given him an earful about the job with The Florist, and he’s accused him of being self-righteous, proud, of seeing himself as ‘high and mighty.’ But Doug knows that’s not all. He knows this is all leading somewhere. When you watch the scene you’ll see a change of pace here. There’s a beat change. It’s as though Doug admits defeat, but really, to Doug, defending himself from Jem’s childish accusations just isn’t a battle worth fighting. Doug’s tired of the bullshit now. He’s had enough. He asks the direct question: What else?)

JEM
Who the fuck’s the father?

(OK. Now we know what this is all about. Finally. His niece, his sister’s beautiful little girl – Shyne. Power: Jem)

DOUG
I know I’m not the father.
JEM
You were the one fucking her.
DOUG
Yeh, and I wasn’t the only one, brother, OK? She knew I knew I’m not the father and I have enough respect for her not to ask her. OK? ‘Cause I don’t think she knows. Alright? Now I don’t wanna shatter your illusions here, partner, but there aren’t enough free clinics here in Mattapan to find out who the father of that kid is…

(Doug snatches the power back easily again. Watch the acting here. Affleck’s doing all the talking, but you can feel Renner about to explode. He represses his rage, but it’s rising to the surface. Doug doesn’t back down. He’s got the power, and he goes in for the kill).

DOUG
And I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, either. You aren’t letting me or not letting me do shit. Alright?

(Exactly! Why does Jem feel he can ‘let Doug or not let Doug’ do anything? And why was Doug letting him act like his boss? Now we know, Doug doesn’t let anyone tell him what he can or can’t do. He lays down the law. Power: Doug).

DOUG

Here’s a little fucking cheat sheet for you. It’s never gonna be me and you and your sister and Shyne fucking playing house up there. Alright? You got it? Get that in your fucking head! I’m tired of your one way fucking bullshit. If you wanna see me again, come down and visit me in Florida.

(Jem’s lost this argument, this verbal argument, so he attacks with all he’s got left, his physical toughness. Affleck’s tough, too. But Jem pulls a pistol, and cracks Doug on the head with it. Physical power: Jem. Emotional power: Doug.)

Doug recovers.

He sits up, panting.

JEM
In the 302 the Feds have me dropping Brendan right here. But I got him back on Tibbetts… shot him right in the chest. I remember he looked at me…and, I don’t know who was more fucking surprised he wasn’t dead – him or me. We just fucking stood there a second waiting for some shit to happen, I don’t know what, but…then he started running. Fucking guy ran a 100 yards with a bullet in his heart…The fucking guy should have run track, y’know what I’m saying?

(So Jem has called this meeting exactly where he killed ‘Brendan’ whoever Brendan is.)

Jem laughs.

DOUG
I didn’t ask you to do that.
JEM
Yeh, well, you didn’t have to, Dougie, come on. They told me Brendan Leahey was coming down here to roll up on you with a glock 21 so I came over here, and I put him in the fucking ground. Did nine years for it. Now, you don’t gotta thank me, but you’re not walking away.

(Jem wrenches the emotional power from Doug. Jem had saved his life. And what, now he was leaving town? Leaving him, and his sister, and his niece? Doug knows Jem isn’t capable of being open emotionally, and that all this tough talk about ‘not letting him walk away’ is just a cover up for the pain he feels. Power: Doug).

DOUG
I’m grateful for everything you’ve done for me. Your family took me in when my father went away. (Exposition at the height of tension. Jem’s family kind of ‘adopted’ Doug when his dad went to prison). You’re like a brother to me. (Doug, without saying the words directly, tells Jem that he loves him). But I’m leaving. (Outward goal stated again.) You gonna shoot me? Go ahead. But you’re gonna have to shoot me in the back.

(Of course, Jem doesn’t. He has lost this conflict and he knows it. Doug gets up, holding all the power, and walks away.)

affleck-the-town-yells-bw3

write the story

“Feedback is a rite of passage” by Scriptcat

When you finish your precious screenplay you’re eager to receive feedback and this can be a vulnerable time for you and the script. This is why you never want to give out your script for a read before it’s ready—only when you’re confident it’s the best draft you can possibly write and you feel that you’re “written out.”  Feedback is an important part of any screenwriter’s growth on their journey, but make sure you don’t set your expectations too high and then become disappointed when you don’t receive the praise you expected.  I think Hemingway said it best:

All you need to do is write truly and not care what the fate of it is.

I think too many aspiring screenwriters write new scripts and suffer under their self-imposed pressure of having to sell it. What are the odds? Astronomical. The safer bet is writing a new script for the sake of telling a story that you need to tell and making sure it’s the best example of your ability. Many times something does not sell but garners you meetings and eventually screenwriting assignment jobs—the bread and butter of working writers.

Many new screenwriters don’t take feedback well or don’t know how to execute the notes that are given.  As they say, “everyone has an opinion” and that’s true, but you need to be able to filter the good feedback from the bad and be open enough to use the good notes and push your screenplay closer to a better draft.  When you’re finally working at a professional level, you’ll need to be a team player and not a diva when it comes to feedback.  Screenwriting is all about the execution of the script and as you continue to write new material you will need to execute your ideas on a professional level. This is necessary to compete in a very crowded and competitive marketplace.

Be careful when open yourself up to feedback and set your expectations too high. We all have expectations after we complete a script.  You know the creative high that you felt during writing and now you might be coming off that high as you turn in your draft and await feedback.  Did you get notes and they are not exactly what you expected?  Were you disappointed they didn’t appreciate the work enough — or maybe didn’t understand it enough?  Maybe they felt your execution was off?  Perhaps you become down on yourself as the insecure voices scream in your head about your lack of ability?  You may even question what you thought was some of your best work only a week ago.  You are not alone my fellow screenwriters.

We all need a pat on the back or just a “job well done” when we finish a screenplay. Most of the time, the pat on the back will come from you alone.  Writing the script is one thing, turning it into your producer and waiting for feedback is entirely another.  It’s easy to take notes personally because your script is your baby and your writing exposes yourself and your talents to criticism.  If you can’t handle criticism, start to work on acceptance of feedback, as it will make your journey as a working writer a lot less bumpy.  Notes and changes are a given with a screenplay.  Perhaps it will make the process easier to always remember that screenwriting is all about rewriting. Detach from the material and expectation from any outcome.  Do not hang on every word or sentence.  You’re not alone.  A writer’s life is a tough job at best.

As screenwriters we must stay open to constructive criticism because screenwriting is all about collaboration.  We will always receive notes because a script is an ever-changing blueprint for a movie.  Once producers, a director and actors get involved there will be many changes and you should welcome the creative input from your co-creators on a project.  These fellow artisans will bring it to an entirely new level of creativity.  You can become frustrated and feel like throwing in the towel if the process gets dragged down by so many changes. Stay positive, focused and persistent at executing the notes and turning in a better script.   Find the passion you had for the first draft and put that energy into shaping a new draft that will please not only yourself, but also the talent it will eventually attract.

Along with the successes, I’ve had to deal with disappointments and frustration throughout my writing career from feedback, but I continue to love the craft of screenwriting.  I’ve been able to view the entire process from a larger perspective and focus on the task at hand — to get the script into better shape as a team player.  If you are lucky enough to be paid to write, it becomes your job.  You go to work, write all day, go home, come back tomorrow and wash, rinse and repeat.  Screenwriters have pages to write and without filling those blank pages there would be no script.

Take your feedback seriously, but don’t take it to heart.  Trust in your writing abilities and if you allow the disappointments to take you into a bad place, address your feelings but then focus on the task of executing your notes.  Stay out-of-the-way of the story and put your ego aside.  Everyone is here to serve the story to the best of their creative ability.  If you want to play with the big boys, at some point you’re going to be bruised and beat up.  It’s just the rites of passage necessary for the growth of a writer.

Part of the deal is that you want people to read and love your material, right?  If producers or executives agree to a read, give them ample time to get back to you.  A gentle nudge in a few weeks is completely acceptable, but if you contact them before, you’ll seem desperate and no one likes to be hounded.  I remember a producer warned me, “Stay on me about your project, because I tend to get busy.”  That’s fine.  But use common sense and put yourself in their situation for a second.  Your script is the most important thing in the world to you after you finish, but you have to understand that it’s not on their front burner at the moment.  One E-mail or text is fine to check up — four is not.

Be open to the entire process of writing — the feedback, rewrites and all.  No disappointments only triumphs when you complete a project.  There will always be creative highs and lows. Do your best not to allow your disappointment to be perceived as a failure and then sink into the morass of fear and insecurity in your creative soul. This will lead to the horrible act of chasing screenplay notes. Avoid this at all costs. A good discipline to follow for the long haul of a screenwriter’s survival is Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu’s advice:

Act without expectation.

Also be patient.  A career does not happen overnight and part of your journey is becoming a better writer and finding your unique voice — one that producers will grow to love, trust and hopefully employ!

Keep filling your blank pages and keep the faith.

Scriptcat out!

Mark Sanderson (aka @Scriptcat) is a Los Angeles based veteran of the screenwriting game with over fifteen years of professional experience and has worked with Academy Award® winning producers, veteran directors, and Academy Award®, Emmy® and Golden Globe® acting nominees on his produced films and screenwriting assignments.  Mark’s films have been recognized and distributed around the world and have opened and premiered at major festivals.
His popular screenwriting blog MY BLANK PAGE was Script Magazine’s pick for “Website of the Week” and had over 50,000 reads last year.  He also offers screenplay consultation services and workshops on his website:
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Dexter + Hannah

DEXTER part 9: Questions with Questions.

We’re studying the explosive climax from DEXTER Season 7 Episode 7 – ‘Chemistry’.

This post will look at the way the writers use the technique of answering questions with questions and how questions form part of the power play between characters.

WATCH the scene:

Now read the scene.

So, let’s look at the way questions are used:

Dexter, angry that Hannah’s latest victim died in his apartment, asks Hannah how she killed him.

DEXTER

How did you do it?

HANNAH

Is it really important?

DEXTER

Is life in prison important?

Hannah bats Dexter’s question away. But Dexter counters with force.

3 questions in a row.

Note the way the number of syllables increase: 5, 7, 8. As the tension increases, so do the number of syllables.

Now this is really interesting: when Hannah finally answers, she tells the truth.

HANNAH

I’m never going to prison.

Price liked to chew on his pens.

The last one had a little something on it…completely undetectable.

Another section of the script where Dexter responds to a question with a question is the break between Beat 2 and Beat 3.

Hannah attempts to make Dexter aware they have a ‘spiritual connection’, to draw him in:

HANNAH

I could feel you watching me while I was being interrogated.

You saw the whole thing didn’t you?

But Dexter refuses to go with her, still needing more information before he commits to this spiritual partnership, to this bond Hannah is convinced they share. Dexter responds to her question with a completely unrelated question – a question that pierces deep:

DEXTER

Is it true about your husband?

Did you kill him because you didn’t want a family?

Hannah answers this question, telling the truth. It’s as though she knows what Dexter needs, and she’s willing to make herself vulnerable to him, to allow herself to be known. She’ll do anything to draw him in to her world, even tell him the truth.

HANNAH

It was the opposite.

I wanted a family and he didn’t. 

He threatened to leave me unless I got an abortion.

Hannah also answers Dexter’s next question directly:

DEXTER

What happened to the baby?

HANNAH

It was a miscarriage.

Sometimes life subtracts, sometimes it adds…

So what do we see here? Hannah answers truthfully when she believes doing so will draw Dexter towards her.

And when Dexter refuses to be drawn in, refuses to give up power, he bats the question away with a question of his own.

Questions are part of the power play between characters.

Hannah’s next and final question is a rhetorical one, which she answers herself, not giving Dexter the chance to bat it away, she answers for him in order to draw him into their spiritual bond:

HANNAH

Do you see what just happened? We were looking out for each other…

In the next post I’ll consider the goals and needs of both characters as they enter this Climactic scene.

Dexter + Hannah

The Black Comedy System

This is how the black comedy works:

  • Many characters exist in an organization. Someone explains the rules and logic by which the system operates in great detail.
  • Many of these characters, including the hero, go after a negative goal that involves killing someone or destroying something.
  • Each believes strongly in the goal and thinks what he is doing makes complete sense. In fact, it is totally illogical.

This is a short extract from the section on Black Comedy from John Truby’s brilliant book – Anatomy of Story  (p135)

“You’re a funny guy!”

Dexter

Dexter extra: what do Chayefsky + Dexter have in common?

Scott Meyers @GointotheStory tweeted a vulture interview with Chris Terrio on the toughest scene he had to write in ARGO.

In the interview Terrio references Paddy Chayefsky, whose wiki page states:

Chayefsky was considered one of the most renowned dramatists of the so-called Golden Age of Television. His intimate, realistic scripts provided a naturalistic style of television drama for the 1950s, and he was regarded as the central figure in the “kitchen sink realism” movement of American television. He was a successful writer, the most successful graduate of television’s slice of life school of naturalism.”

Slice of Life made me automatically think of Dexter’s boat.

Could this be coincidence ? Clicking on the wiki link to this school of naturalism we find a further definition:

Slice of life is a phrase describing the use of mundane realism depicting everyday experiences in art and entertainment.

During the 1950s, the phrase had common critical usage in reviews of live television dramas, notably teleplays by Paddy Chayefsky.

The literary term refers to a storytelling technique that presents a seemingly arbitrary sample of a character’s life, which often lacks a coherent plot, conflict, or ending.

In anime and manga, “slice of life” is a genre that often parallels teen melodrama in addition to using slice-of-life narrative techniques.

Oh the irony!

So, the answer to the question ‘What do Dexter and Chayefsky have in common?’ is:

A Slice of Life !

Harry Brown

Moral Vision in Harry Brown

I think the problem with the moral vision in Harry Brown is that the writer – Gary Young – has Harry compare  the Troubles in Northern Ireland with social unrest on the council estates of England.
 
Harry states that those fighting in Northern Ireland were fighting for ‘a cause’, whereas the youth hurling petrol bombs at riot police on London’s council estates were doing it for ‘entertainment.’
 
I don’t believe lower class social unrest is ‘entertainment’ at all, but that this anger comes from deep-seated resentment at the rich, ruling classes and at capitalism. I agree with this statement:
 
“…self-destructive or antisocial behavior is a response to circumstances and not a moral failing.”

- from this article on the Open Democracy website about capitalism and drug legalization.

CHAVS – The Demonization of The Working Classes by Owen Jones looks like a good read on this subject.

Image

 

THE DEFINITIVE GUIDE: TREATMENTS for series and serials.

Mark Dark:

Awesome post on treatment writing.

Originally posted on Scriptadvice.co.uk's Blog:

Over the last few months, via my work with writers at all levels of experience and development and through teaching writers at my workshops, I have found that for a lot of you, the area of treatment writing is the most tricky.

There is some really good advice out there regarding treatment writing, but much of it covers treatments for the feature film industry, with the occasional nod towards the smaller screen. I felt the need then, to write a blog that focuses entirely on that which the Television Industry expects of a treatment.

Here are the key areas to make sure you get right and get in, when writing.

Your treatment must have:

 * CLARITY

* VISION

* CHARACTER

* STORY

* A MESSAGE

 CLARITY:

The reason why I have seen so many projects fall by the way side over the years I have spent in development…

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Deconstructing Dialogue in The Town (part 3): exposition & theme

We’re analyzing a scene from The Town.

Read the scene.

Watch the scene.

For part 1 of this study, looking at the beats and power play between Doug and Jem, go here.

For part 2a, looking at exposition, go here.

In this post we’ll explore how theme emerges from dialogue, thematic subtext from text.

Into the scene:

JEM
There’s people I can’t let you walk
away from.
 
DOUG
What? Who?
 
JEM
Come on!
 
A beat. Doug realizes.
DOUG
Are you serious, Jimmy?
She’s not my kid….
(beat)
Cut it out. All you give a fuck
about is coke and Xbox and now
you’re trying to play it off you
care about Shyne, come on now!
 
JEM
You know what your fucking problem
is?
 
DOUG
What?
 
JEM
You think you’re better than
people.
 
DOUG
Uh-huh.
 
JEM
Mister fucking clean, mister
fucking goddamn high and mighty,
right?
 
DOUG
Yeh, I’m better than all these
people, you’re right. I’m better
than anybody in this fucking
project.
 
JEM
Yeah, that’s what you think, but
you grew up right here. Same rules
that I did.
 
DOUG
OK. What else?
 
Beat.
 
JEM
Who the fuck’s the father?
 
DOUG
I know I’m not the father.
 
JEM
You were the one fucking her.
 
DOUG
Yeh, and I wasn’t the only one, brother, OK?
She knew I knew I’m not the father
and I have enough respect for her
not to ask her. OK? Because I don’t
think she knows. Alright? Now I
don’t wanna shatter your illusions
here, partner, but there aren’t
enough free clinics here in
Mattapan to find out who the father
of that kid is…
 
Beat.
 
DOUG (cont’d)
And I don’t know who the fuck you
think you are, either. You aren’t
letting me or not letting me do
shit. Alright? Here’s a little
fucking cheat sheet for you. Its
never gonna be me and you and your
sister and Shyne fucking playing
house up there. Alright? You got
it? Get that in your fucking head!
I’m tired of your one way fucking
bullshit. If you wanna see me
again, come down and visit me in

Florida.

So, what’s going on here in the way of exposition? What are we being exposed to thematically?

Later, at the end of the scene, we find out that Jem’s family took Doug in when his dad went to prison. Doug obviously started to fuck Krista, Jem’s sister – who isn’t mentioned by name here. Krista got pregnant, had a daughter, and from this we learn that she doesn’t know who the father is. Next, Doug, in quite an eloquent way, basically tells Jem his sister was a slut:

…there aren’t enough free clinics here in Mattapan to find out who the father of that kid is.

But this section of the scene is working subtextually on two more levels – interconnected by theme.

1. Krista & Shyne.

Krista’s motherly love for her daughter Shyne is the  reason she later sacrifices her brother and Doug, giving them up to the FBI.

2. Doug’s mother.

When Doug asks his dad, on a visit to prison, why he didn’t look for his mother when she walked out on them, Doug’s dad says  ‘because there was ‘nothing to find.’

He infers because Doug’s mother was no different to all the other single parent girls he sees on  the projects ‘fucking around’ – was no different, in fact, to Krista.

So, underlying this section of dialogue, ostensibly conflict between Doug and Jem about the identity of Shyne’s father, is one of The Town’s major themes: motherhood.

 

studying the craft of writing

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