Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Skull: Draft Two

Previously, I showed you the first draft of the first page of my spec project THE SKULL.
I solicited some comments to see if there was anything I was missing or if there was anything that really turned people off. There were a couple of small things, but just a general reformat/polish is going to take care of it.

So here's the rewrite:



Wicked steel and glass spires tower over the rest of the landscape.
As if Satan's sharp fingers erupted out of hell.

The sun bakes the elements to a burnt orange, but as the SUN retreats from the NIGHT...

And the DAY PEOPLE head home to the comfort and safety of their naivete...

The neon glows hot.

The darkness takes over...

And it becomes a different world.

One where the NIGHT PEOPLE come out to play in the thick, wet shadows of this chiaroscuro city...


A MAN is dragged into frame by five SHADOWS. The man is powerfully built, but tightly bound with heavy rope.

A burlap sack covers his face, but...

There's a small hole in the bag, and he can see his tormentors. Through his frantic eye everything is erratic, painful, distorted.

The SHADOWS are men, dressed in good suits, though we still can't see their faces.

They arrive at a POST driven into the ground and surrounded by STACKS OF TIRES.

Please! Why are you doing this?


The Shadows quickly lash him to the post...

One Shadow pours gasoline over the man. As he struggles frantically, we realize this isn't a man...

This is a victim.

No! Please! No!
(c) 2005 by Bill Cunningham
Okay, so you can see a couple of small things that I've changed.
Does it make it better? I think so, as in this case better = clearer to the reader.
Simpler (You knew I was going there, right?).
If you look closely, I've told you just enough to know what's going on, the tone, and how it is supposed to look, but I'm not trying to overwhelm the reader with a ton of detail. From a budget standpoint, The opening city shots can be stock footage or can be a function of a small second unit. I envision the cityscape to be like those wonderful stop motion shots in the beginning of BLADE. This also helps establish tone.
The Junkyard is appropriate to the story and we will do several more scenes here. In the low budget world - if you use a location for only one scene - it gets tossed and the action placed in another location. Usually a maximum of five. At this point I have six locations, but as I said in the comments - we can double up a couple of them by relighting, set dressing and shooting in a different style and you won't know the difference. Again this means time and money saved.
You'll also notice I gave the director the opportunity to do a POV shot (through the burlap), but I didn't give it its own slug/shot line for three reasons:
1. That would have been telling the director how to do his job, and that's not appropriate.
2. It would have pulled the reader out of the story, by reminding him/her that this is a screenplay.
3. It would have cluttered up the page. Another way to pull the reader out of the story.
In terms of lighting, I've described the look with one word - chiaroscuro. Not only does this "film noir" lighting motif look cool, it works really well for this story. Film noir lighting was born out of the need to light sets really quickly so the crew could make their shooting days. I don't need to tell the DP and Director anything else.
You have to remember that while a screenplay is a document that should stand on its own, it's also a working blueprint for production. That means that you have to step back and allow the Director, DP, Production Designer and actors to contribute to telling the story. Too much detail doesn't allow them to do that and actually prevents them from exceeding limitations.
Like a blueprint you provide structure. They provide the interior design.
Maybe they have a creative way to paint, light, shoot or decorate the set, but because the script says it has to be a certain way - they dismiss the idea and don't make the suggestion to the director. That's wrong. As long as they match the tone of your story - what do you care if the wall is a different color than what you wrote? This is of course an extreme example, but you'd be surprised at what I read in a script. The level of detail is staggering and is basically there to cover flaws in the story.
In the D2DVD world, your job is to make sure that everyone understands what story they're telling. Their job is to figure out how best to tell it. So, Pulperverse what do you think?
I await your feedback.


Anonymous said...

Bill --

Well it doesn't seem much different to me but I'm just too lazy to head back and review them side by side.

Two things I found ackward. "The Day People head home to the comfort and safety of their naivete". I know what you mean but naivete isn't a place you head to. It almost seems like that sentence should end with "...head home to the comfort and safety of suburbia."

* * *

Also when you mention the Shadow pouring gasoline over the man, it gets a tiny bit fuzzy who is doing the pouring.

* * *

One final thought. I keep wondering if there isn't a more intriguing first line than "Why are you doing this?" I refer back to Fight Club as a good example of an intriguing first line "People were always asking if I knew Tyler Durden."

Perhaps your current line is perfect for where you're headed but it sure would be more of an eyebrow raising moment if the Man said "I thought we were friends." That would imply that this act of violence isn't random. The Shadows and the Man were once friends? Suddenly it isn't just a random act of violence -- it's betrayal. That's juicy.

Anyway, whether you wanted it or not, that's my two cents.


Bill Cunningham said...

You're right about the gasoline line - there's a word missing! I'll edit it in color.

Re: dialogue - there's a reason for this being worded as it is.

Bill Cunningham said...

You'll notice I did more than change a word.

If I had my way, I would hold onto scripts forever, tinkering and twisting...

RogerRmjet said...

Good job, Bill. My only nitpicky comment is that in the first two paragraphs of the second scene, you have "but" twice. Just a pet-peeve of mine.
Otherwise, you've really hooked me and I'd like to see where this is going. I especially appreciated your comments at the end explaining why you wrote it the way you did.

Bill Cunningham said...

My final, nit free draft will reduce my "buts"...

Everyone has something. As I said earlier, I would hold onto these things forever if it weren't the need to meet a deadline and get paid.

John Donald Carlucci said...

"wet shadows of this chiaroscuro city..."

I like this line a great deal. I also see what you mean when you say simpler to me. I think I'll look up a few of the noir scripts.


Bill Cunningham said...

Reading those noir scripts is great for dialogue too.

I haven't seen the T-MEN script, but it has one of the finest low budget noir lighting schemes around.

Simpler also means saving money in the budget. You DON'T have time for multiple set ups and multiple takes. Bill Martell has a great story he tells in one of his articles on low budget shooting. They laid dolly track and shot one side of a bar from multiple points on the dolly track, moving from one end to the other.

After lunch, they switched the track to the other side of the room and did pickups from that angle. When cut together, the scene looked much bigger than the budget implied it would. They made their shooting schedule that day and had a great scene.

But the scene itself was very simple. The DP added to it by using this set up to add to the look.

(And yes, I'm simplifying Bill's story. Go to his site and look it up, and the other great, helpful articles he has)

Rock said...

Looks good, reads good. I see you use the "we" in the script. I do as well, though I'm always told not to, not to, not to. Bah, I say.

The Constipated Writer said...

I use 'we' too.

Like it so far. Good job.

Warren said...

Actually quite like the line:
"As he struggles frantically, we realize this isn't a man..." Stuck with me for a spell after reading it, which is a good sign.

I'm not so sure about using "chiaroscuro" though. Frankly, I didn't know exactly what it meant. Is it a term that's often used in noir scripts? Maybe others didn't have the same reaction.

Overall, I'm intrigued!

Bill Cunningham said...

Just because we use the "we" doesn't make it correct.