profession

Coming to Grips With Rewriting

For a while, I hated the thought of re-writing. Loathed it, in fact. At this point in time, my reference for re-writes came mainly from the studios bringing in new writers to eviscerate a decent script into a complete pile of shit. (“Nottingham” or “Green Lantern” anyone?)

I was young, I was stupid, I was uneducated.

I thought rewriting your own script meant a complete page-one rewrite where you change the names and genders of all your characters and reset your story in space. Or something. Like I said, I was stupid.

Some perspective is needed. When I first started writing, I thought I could write pretty well, and just needed to learn formatting. This was mainly assumed because of the scripts I was reading were all completed versions typed up nicely after the movies came out. These are a horrible example of scripts to read in one sense: these tend to have camera directions, scene numbers, and the writers may sometimes write extensive paragraphs of description.

On the flipside, these scripts can be a terrific resource when looking for how to write great character descriptions, taught action sequences, and a wide variety of descriptive verbs.

When I say I was uneducated, that is partially true. I had gone through David Trottier’s book for formatting. This became a large problem.

As I’ve stated before, when I discovered Scriptshadow, the doors to an education in Screenwriting were blown wide open. One of the earliest things I remember reading was to never, under any circumstance, have a description paragraph be longer than three lines. This was a game changer, and a bit of a wake up call.

In Trottier’s book, he said it was okay to have (If memory serves) no more than five lines of description. Then, in the next edition, he reduces that number to four lines. Thus, I began to really take issue with this so-called guru. He kept changing the rules every single edition. Add to that, his latest edition of the book still states that the dialogue blocks can be four inches wide.

In the first article I read of Carson’s, he discussed cheating the margins, and how bad it looks on the writer. Since then, I have only glanced at Trottier’s book a couple of times just to compare recent editions.

In the year I’ve frequented the site, I have read current articles as well as the first year’s worth of archives; this leads me to state the following: He is consistent as hell! There are few to no differences in what he has been saying. If he changes his mind, or shows how an exception to a previous theory can work.

And that’s a big deal to me. With Trottier, his message was “Do this this way, because that’s how it’s done!” and with Carson, his message is “Using this movie as an example, here’s an example of how you can make a straight-up exposition scene become way more interesting.” FYI, the example I just used was from his breakdown of “The Big Lebowski.”

Scriptshadow is all about constantly learning a craft and finding ways and examples of how to improve.

This is the type of education I will take over all others. The we’re-all-in-the-same-boat idea. We’re learning together. Nothing turns by brain off like the teacher who acts like a know-it-all with his paint-by-numbers lessons that say there is only one way of doing things.

With a year’s worth of education absorbed, I can look back on previous projects with a clear sense of what I did wrong.

A couple of Scriptshadow articles really made me take notice: 10 Ways I Know I’m Reading an Amateur Script and Thoughts from a Script Reader. Both of these mentioned a couple of issues readers had with a script I submitted, and I never really knew how to address them in the next pass.

The big thing was discussing the fact that there were too many characters, some of whom didn’t seen three-dimensional. That was something I never quite understood. The characters were so clear in my head, why weren’t they coming across as clear on the page?

First things first, I never wrote up biographies for my characters. It seemed like too much of a hassle, and all I wanted to do was get to the writing. What I soon learned was that by digging deep into each character’s past, you will be able to create a character with consistent actions from beginning to end. If a character’s actions are inconsistent, it just shows the reader that the story was made up on the fly, and no real effort seemed to be put in.

Here’s a bit of character perspective: A one-dimensional character is nothing more than a single character trait. You see these on bad TV dramas. The heroin addict who is only seen getting high and doing literally nothing else. (A bit part) A two-dimensional character is a person with a family, some friends, and a couple traits. Maybe they’re successful, maybe they’re funny. We may find out a little about them, but only a bit. (A guest star) A three-dimensional character is someone whose past has been fully explored, and their current traits, habits, and behaviors reflect that exploration. (A series regular)

While all three of these types of characters might (and almost certainly do) appear in an episode of “CSI,” which of the three are we most likely to respond to? The most fleshed out, of course. Save for Sara Sidle, I could imagine being friends with all of the main characters.

With this knowledge in mind, I recently came across Carson’s article on rewriting. This made a ton of sense. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it. (This site tends to have a lot of those moments) Basically, you go through the draft in passes, with each new pass focusing on one character. That way, you make sure they have proper motivation, a clear voice, and they’re consistent throughout. And best of all, you’re reading a story from THEIR perspective. That way, hell, you can just look at their previously written actions and say, “There’s NO WAY Tony would ditch his girlfriend to hang out with Jimmy; he already told him he had dinner with her parents that night. This is a major plot-hole!” I’m exaggerating the situation, but you get the gist.

From now on, I see rewriting as each pass being another chance at making the original idea stronger, not rethinking the whole thing. Sure, some things may change, but who knows? It may be for the best.

Since reading the rewrite article, I’ve come up with a few ideas of my own for the types of passes that can be done to enhance the script. I won’t share them until I test them, and be sure that I’m on the right track.

This has been a terrific year of education that I couldn’t be more thankful to have gotten the chance to undertake. I look forward to continuing with this endeavor and seeing how much I’ve improved as a writer after I complete the next script.

Until next time, Movie Buffs!

What I’ve Learned This Year

On the second of September, it will be one year since I’ve had employment. This was planned to be the year that I wrote six to ten screenplays before setting off to work and save up for a move to Los Angeles.

There was a change in plans shortly after my job came to an end. My parents, who I’ve been living with, informed my brother and sister that they had decided to move to North Carolina, and we were all invited to come with.

This news came as quite a shock, and naturally, I was pissed. This changed everything. How would I live? Where would I work? Why the fuck bother? I hated the notion, and hoped to move straight to the west coast. Following some examination of living costs out there, I recanted. My brother asking aloud, “Did you come to your senses, then?” He’s kind of a shit at times, but he’s family, so what can you do?

Following a couple months of wallowing in self pity, and being quite direction-less, I finally managed to get my act together and get some ideas down.

First was the month-long research period for “Soldiers of Fortune.” I spent days on the internet trying to learn all I could about the weight and size and classes of 16th century ships. Around Thanksgiving, my library facilitated me with a book on Columbus’ ships that proved most helpful.

One of the critical parts of planning this story was figuring out the time frame of it all. As it was an Action/Adventure film, there was naturally globetrotting. What I had trouble with was finding out the travel times between destinations, the time difference and how long each of the events in each location would last. It was necessary to create an actual time line for the project, and it came in quite handy.

Before I wrote, I outlined, with a simple rubric I plan to touch on at a later date. Any problems with a scene about to be written were further outlined on my trusty 4×6 notecards. When completed, there were at least 100 cards related to this particular project. Each of them handwritten.

The writing was rather fast, two weeks, I believe. I had it at 100 pages. And I saw that it was good.

A month later, I wrote my second script. “While This Offer Lasts.” A rewrite of a script I had done the year before. This project is what I refer to as the “Manic Draft.” Named that for when I told my doctor at a checkup and he said, “Good God, are you manic?” He was taken aback by the particulars of the project: 113 pages written in eight days.

The project itself took all of ten days total. The first day was the beat sheet. The second was outlining. On the third, I started. I used notecards in the same capacity as the previous project. And like it, I used over 100 cards.

Shortly after finishing the second script, I sent in the first to Scriptshadow’s Amateur Offerings. Around that time, I started really delving into the articles on the site. It was there that I found the article discussing cheating the margins. Putting the script into Final Draft, I realized I had been doing things wrong.

Once I took care of the formatting, I read more of the articles. It soon became apparent to me that I didn’t know nearly as much as I thought I did. On one hand, it was terrible. There went the last two months of work I’ve done, all the while thinking it was good. On the other, it was exciting. There, on the web was an example of something similar to what I’d written, what was wrong with it, WHY it was wrong, and a suggestion or two about how to correct it.

In the past year, I have bookmarked hundreds of articles on one site alone. (A great thing about the bookmarking feature in my browser is that I can re-name each bookmark, and say why I bookmarked it, instead of going to the page and having to re-read it.

Another helpful aspect was the reading of two books: “Scriptshadow Secrets,” which, as I’ve stated, is the best screenwriting book I’d read to date. That remains true. The second one I haven’t finished yet. It’s called “Crafty Screenwriting” by Alex Epstein. This book, I would venture to say, would be tied for the title of the best screenwriting book you can buy. I’m dead serious. This book was written by a former studio suit who knows what the hell he’s talking about. For instance, in the first chapter, he says that you have to hook the reader by the third sentence in a query letter. I’ve NEVER heard that. Not in all of the books that Writer’s Digest peddles, or anywhere else.

I’ve also joined a screenwriting forum. It was probably the best decision I’d made all year. On there, I think I’ve really found a place I belong. And if this site is any indication of what networking with other screenwriters is like, I can’t wait! I’ve met a ton of really great people on there who I just love chatting and exchanging ideas with.

An example of this is how for a long time, I was having trouble with loglines. Through this site, as well as a book or two (see above), I’ve managed to help a couple writers better fine-tune their stories. It was all from the realization that if the information in your logline does not directly have an effect on the story, lose it. IE, if your story takes place in the early 19th century, but it’s about a construction worker being blackmailed, the time really doesn’t play into the pitch, since it’s all about the construction worker.

But by far the two biggest things that I’ve pounded into my head are building a concise character description, and understanding the economy of the page. A side note for the latter being more diverse with descriptive verbage. These two subjects became the biggest focuses over the later part of the year.

I will admit, however, I feel a little guilty, not having written a single page since January. This was really when I discovered I was doing it wrong. The good news is that I’m still technically writing everyday. I always have my phone, a notebook, or notecards handy to jot down an idea when I get it.

Another reason for my sloth-like behavior was the fact that my family is moving to North Carolina, and we sold our house back in April. It was fast. I mean, REALLY fast. We put it on the market on a Wednesday, and we closed the sale the following Wednesday. Yes, ONE WEEK.

So it was really hard to do much writing with all of my noted being packed in moving boxes. Then, we moved to an apartment in Madison until we were set to move South in the fall. Currently, we have a month left here, so my notes are going BACK into storage for the next move. Where, I’m told, we’re going to be at another apartment for an initial three months before possibly looking for a new place to rent. It’s kind of harrowing.

Once I get settled in, I plan on seeking full time employment. After I get into the swing of things, that’s when I’ll get into writing again.

In the meantime, I plan on creating a sort of handbook for screenwriting that breaks down the aspects of screenwriting. (Excerpts from articles all having to do with writing a concise character description would all appear under the same category, for example.) This may take some time to put together, but I feel it will be well worth it in the long run.

I’m also really hoping that the public library system down there holds a candle to mine here in Wisconsin. The resources have just been phenomenal.

All in all, this has been a pretty well-utilized year. I’m still far from where I’d wanted to be a year ago, but with all that I’ve learned, I’m okay with that. I’d rather try writing one great script after a year of learning how to improve, rather than having six projects that I would have to agonize over rewriting. I’m just as sure now more than ever, that this is the only career path that I want, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Until next time, Movie Buffs!

18 Screenwriting Tips from “Reservoir Dogs”

These tips are not concrete in any fashion. They are merely
suggestions Reservoir Dogs 07based upon a closer look at various films and examining why they do or don’t work. So there’s no confusion, I include myself in the audience these tips are compiled for. Let’s see what today’s title has to offer us…

Recently, I was trying to figure out what makes a great low budget movie. Low budget doesn’t mean low quality. It means making the most of your resources and creating a great end product. One of the places to look is usually the first films made by your favorite filmmakers. The ones that got them out there and showed the world what they could do. The lack of funds required them to utilize their creativity and storytelling abilities. The next few entries are going to examine what makes these low budget films unique, good and most importantly, entertaining.

Quentin Tarantino is probably my favorite living director. “Pulp Fiction” is my all-time favorite movie. So in order to examine how he eventually made that film, I’m taking a closer look at his first film, “Reservoir Dogs.” Made for the low budget of $1.2 million, Tarantino crafted a unique heist film, instantaneously making a name for himself in the world of filmmaking. Let’s see what we learn…

BEWARE: MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD! You’ve been warned.

  1. Opening Manifesto. Straight off the bat, we get the line, “I’ll tell you what ‘Like A Virgin’s’ about. It’s all about a girl who digs a guy with a big dick. The whole song- It’s a metaphor for big dicks.” IMMEDIATELY, we KNOW this movie ain’t what we were thinking it was. Any predispositions we had… they all went out the fuckin’ window.

    By starting your movie off with a bold, outta-left-field line of that caliber, (Better, if you are able to back it up, as well as put it in context sooner, rather than later.) you can be sure that you’ll catch the average cinema-goer off guard. Thanks to making a bold statement early on, you can signal COMMAND an audience to pay attention.

    But don’t do it for show, that’s the sure sign of an amateur (dialogue about nothing). No, back up your statement by doing what Mr. Brown does: explain the statement, all the while showing (not telling) the character, how he came to that conclusion, how it relates to the manner in which they view the world. (Who else but Mr. Brown could hear a Madonna song and come to the conclusion it’s about a man with large genitalia?)

    Just your normal breakfast chit-chat.

    Just your normal breakfast chit-chat.

  2. Non-Pointless Dialogue in Disguise. It should come as no surprise to anyone that Tarantino is a MASTER of dialogue. The problem is that when most aspiring screenwriters figure this out, they all try to emulate the hell out of him. Hey, I’ll admit, I’m as guilty of that as anyone. We all love how his conversations (seemingly about nothing) can go on for an extended period, and we don’t tire of them.

    But why is that? An offshoot of the above example, the opening coffee house scene exists purely to establish character. Period. It’s not inane, it’s not about nothing, it’s about showing us these characters for the first time. So how does he do it? Well, pop in the movie and see for yourself. Listen to how these guys sound like they’re all old buddies. Like they’ve been working together for years. (No one’s overtly offended when the subject of a big dick is brought up during breakfast.)

    Also, we see Mr. Pink explain a simple philosophy behind why he doesn’t tip. By discussing that, we see how the other characters react to this, and learn more about them. Several of these (not yet revealed) crooks sympathize with the waitress. (Something the average film-goer might not think a hardened criminal is capable of — empathy.) This is kind of a reversal of the old rule “Show, Don’t Tell.” Almost. The thoughts they tell show us who these characters are in a natural way, instead of being downright obvious about their character traits.

  3. Imagery. Good God Almighty, imagery! When you’re on a budget, you gotta be a creative sonuvabitch when it comes to imagery. Imagery is what makes a movie memorable. Think of it like those anniversary trailers Universal Pictures put out on their re-released movies. All those iconic shots: Chief Brody reacting to Jaws, B-Rabbit putting the audience in a frenzy, the birds chasing the people as they run from them. If you’ve seen the movie, you KNOW the clip, even if it’s just for a second or two.

    Spectacle. And realize that it’s not as complex as you might think: for “Reservoir Dogs,” the imagery of a few guys dressed in black suits, ties and sunglasses in slow motion has become iconic. They parodied it on “Coupling.” Hell, it was even the LOGO for Tarantino’s company, for crying out loud.

    You can't fake cool.

    You can’t fake cool.

    And hey, remember “Pulp Fiction”? One of the posters for that movie is just Vince and Jules aiming their guns. That’s it. It’s two people standing, pointing guns. But more importantly, we know the context of that image.

    My point is, if you have an idea for an iconic image, try and figure out how you can include it into your low budget opus. Who knows? You might just see people making a reference to it one day.

  4. Building Tension. Not even following, but DURING the opening credits, we hear the distressing sound of somebody in pain. Even saying, “I’m gonna die!” Low and behold, we then see Mr. Orange in the back seat of a car drenched in blood while Mr. White drives, reassuring him that he’s not.

    I didn't know you had a degree in medicine.

    I didn’t know you had a degree in medicine.

    I bring this up because in a bad movie, this kind of dialogue would most likely be revealed to be a movie-in-movie ordeal. (Like a bad horror flick, for example) Here, it’s a simple setup and payoff that is worth our while. (Since it’s relevant to the plot.)

  5. Realistic Reactions. As Mr. Orange is crying out from the backseat, Mr. White is trying to take his mind off the pain, via a combination of logic and humor. “I’m going to die!” “Oh excuse me. I didn’t realize you had a degree in medicine.” (The holding of hands was a nice touch to this scene.)

    It’s two comrades in arms trying to get the hell outta Dodge. And like all comrades, one tries to console the other through his injuries. It’s realistic because some people, in the face of panic or danger, might use humor to alleviate the tension. (Unlike that stupid “You’re too big for this world” bit from “The Man of Steel.”)

  6. Raise the Tension. After calming Mr. Orange down, Mr. Pink comes in very panicked, not letting up on the audience. The sense of urgency is also present here because not only is Mr. Pink panicked, but he suspects that they’ve been setup, sharing his logic and explaining how he came to this conclusion. Now the audience is curious: IS there a rat? And who?

  7. Necessary Exposition. Normally, this is a no-no. But, since Tarantino IS a dialogue God, he gets away with it. These stories are necessary since the budget didn’t allow for seeing the heist at all. These characters’ vivid storytelling abilities (“Jesus, how old you think that black girl was? 20? 21?” “If that.”)

    Mr. White and Mr. Pink discuss how the heist went bad.

    Mr. White and Mr. Pink discuss how the heist went bad.

    By their reactions to the events, we can get a sense of just how bad it went down. Plus, Mr. Pink even had to correct Mr. White’s version of the events (when exactly the cops made their presence known), thereby telling the audience that they each had a different vantage point and there was so much chaos around them.

    Besides, had we seen the actual heist, their recounting of the events would’ve been superfluous and would’ve put the film at a standstill otherwise.

  8. Showing History. In the first flashback we see how Mr. White became apart of this job. What’s great about this scene is that in between the asking and telling details about the job, Mr. White and Joe are touching base, asking about old partners and friends. This shows how these guys have gone back a long time. There’s a similar scene in “Ocean’s Eleven” when Danny finds out one of his associates died from skin cancer.

  9. Pacing. Directly following a slow-ish (but still entertaining) flashback, we get a high-octane scene: Mr. Pink saying they gotta get outta there. He and Mr. White try and think logically. They can’t leave Mr. Orange, he’ll bleed to death, etc. (This allows for a real reason to stay in the same location.)

    The scene continues to escalate when Mr. Pink finds out Mr. Orange knows Mr. White’s name and where he’s from, causing Mr. Pink to completely freak out about Mr. Orange talking to the cops. This causes Mr. White and Mr. Pink to draw guns on each other.

    The stress getting to them.

    The stress getting to them.

  10. Turn it Up! While Mr. White and Mr. Orange have guns drawn on each other, enter Mr. Blonde, the same guy they were both calling a psycho earlier. A funny side note is that Mr. Blonde is the only person to not raise his voice in the movie. What’s great is that he’s the calmest guy in the room while being the craziest. There’s no better bad guy than the one that doesn’t let you read him and can be a loose canon at any moment.

    As they’re all getting pissed at each other, Mr. White says that Mr. Pink is taking Mr. Blonde’s side, to which Mr. Pink says, “Fuck sides!” It’s logical here, since they’re all working towards trying to make sense out of a chaotic situation.

  11. Anticipation. Mr. Blonde says he has something to show the others that they’ll like. He shows them he has taken a cop hostage and they can find out who ratted them out. Then, we get a flashback. We don’t get to see them immediately get information from the cop. We want to see it now! But instead, Tarantino delays violence, letting the audience simmer with the promise of violence around the corner.Reservoir Dogs 05

    So we get another flashback, this time showing how Mr. Blonde got on the job. It’s shows just how these guys look out for each other. (Got a prick P.O.? We’ll set you up at this job where you don’t have to show up, and they cover for you if he shows up to check up on you.) This scene sets up a future plot point relating to Nice Guy Eddie and Mr. Blonde. Not to mention, the back and forth between them is utterly hysterical.

  12. Adding Chaos. Nice Guy Eddie shows up to the warehouse as the guys are beating up the cop. Once again, adding a new person into the mix, always seems to turn a scene up. Personalities clash and tempers flare when the new guy tries to understand the situation. When we left off, all the guys were calm, but once Nice Guy Eddie comes in, they all go back at each others’ throats. Any time you can (as naturally as possible) inject more chaos into a scene, do it.

  13. More Anticipation. Nice Guy Eddie orders Mr. White and Mr. Pink to come with him and ditch the cars and get the diamonds, leaving Mr. Blonde to watch the still bleeding Mr. Orange and the cop. Here we get the most infamous scene in the movie, the Ear Scene. Mr. Blonde hacks off the cop’s ear with a straight razor whilst dancing to a song on the radio. While he’s torturing, he once again never raises his voice. Instead, he lets his actions speak for him.

    And what actions they are!

    And what actions they are!

    Tarantino adds even MORE anticipation by having Mr. Blonde go out to his car just after cutting off the cop’s ear. How does he do it? With a long tracking shot, of course. By doing that, we don’t know what to expect. Are there cops outside waiting for him? Did the cop get loose and grab a gun? The suspense is killer!

    Then, Mr. Blonde gets a tin of gasoline from his trunk and douses the cop in it, fully prepared to set him on fire! At the last second, he’s shot full of lead by… Mr. Orange?? What? Then, it turns out… Mr. Orange is a cop! What?!

    And it’s a terrific scene because since both Mr. Orange and the cop have both lost blood, they talk slowly, allowing for this new information to really sink in with the audience. The cop knows Mr. Orange is also a cop and does give an explanation for how he knows this.

    Again, since they’re both wounded and talking really slowly, this allows for the information we learn to really sink in. In a bad movie, right after someone reveals that they’re an undercover cop, they might cut to showing that person as a cop right away, and not let the scene play out in a natural way.

  14. Explanation. After the reveal that Mr. Orange is a cop, we get our longest flashback of the film. It shows how Mr. Orange got in good with the crew. It needs to be said that you should beware of something Tarantino does here: use a flashback WITHIN a flashback. It usually never works. Here, it does. Why? Because of how it’s framed.

    Mr. Orange meets his contact in a diner. His contact asks if a story worked? We get a flashback showing Mr. Orange learning an anecdote to tell as a story to the crew to give himself credibility.

    Why the flashback here works is because of Orange’s contact telling him he needs to make it real. And what happens? That’s what Tarantino does. There’s ANOTHER flashback within a flashback within a flashback (and this is a decade plus BEFORE “Inception.”) where Mr. Orange is telling the crew this story and we actually see it happen, despite it never actually happening to him. But since Mr. Orange did what his contact told him to do, owning all the details of the story, it literally came to life.

  15. Showing Character. Again, the scenes often thought pointless are there for a reason. When the four guys are in the car, they tell stories and quip over who played a role on TV. This gives insight into where these guys came from. (Nice Guy Eddie worked in his dad’s strip club and knew one dancer who he told a story about. How else would we have known that?) Also, with the exception of Mr. Blue, every single member of the crew gets a moment to shine.

    Story time, boys!

    Story time, boys!

    Every single one of them gets to own a scene at some point or reveal an interesting aspect of themselves. Also, never once is there a boring story. They’re all told extremely well. And, hey, they’re entertaining as hell. Character can be shown through the simple act of storytelling. The words they use to describe a girl, or name a TV show where the lead actress looked just like that person. It goes a long way to tell you as simply as possible who these guys are.

  16. Revealing Relationships. There’s a scene where Mr. White and Mr. Orange are scoping out the location for the heist and Mr. White gives a rundown of how to control the room when they’re robbing the place. Here, we see Mr. Orange impress Mr. White. (“That girl with the great ass?” “Right here on my dick.”) This gets a laugh out of the usually stoic Mr. White.Reservoir Dogs 10

    Because of this scene, it’s easier to believe Mr. White’s actions (holding his hand) when Mr. Orange gets shot and he tries to comfort him. We can see that this is really where Mr. White started sort of taking Mr. Orange under his wing. Even going so far as to dispel any thought that he could be the rat when Mr. Pink brings up that notion.

    The end of the flashback, showing how Mr. White and Mr. Orange got away does bring up some suspicion. We actually see the lines previously delivered during the credits in audio form only. This time, with Mr. Orange’s eyes shifting. For my money, I think this was Mr. Orange’s way of trying to stay alive: panic a bit more, causing Mr. White to not suspect the guy writhing in pain in the backseat as being a cop.

  17. Payoffs. When Nice Guy Eddie, Mr. White and Mr. Pink come back to the warehouse, they see the carnage. Eddie shoots the cop Mr. Orange was trying to keep alive. Mr. Orange tries to tell them that he shot Mr. Blonde because he was going to kill them when they returned to the warehouse.

    But Nice Guy Eddie don’t believe him. He reveals something about Mr. Blonde. He just got out of jail after four years. He could’ve gone free had he said Joe’s name, but he didn’t. So because of that degree of loyalty, no way does Eddie believe Mr. Blonde would do a thing like that.

    Earlier, they’d hinted at Mr. Blonde doing something for Joe that he was very grateful for. This scene totally pays off that setup. Since they don’t reveal it early on, it comes as a surprise that Eddie wouldn’t believe a convincing story.

  18. Climax. When Joe shows up, he fingers Mr. Orange for the rat. Mr. White still defends him, causing a Mexican Standoff between him, Joe and Eddie.

    You can here the Morricone piece that normally accompanies this.

    You can just imagine the Morricone piece that normally accompanies this shot.

    With the exception of Mr. Pink, they all shoot each other. Joe and Eddie are dead. Mr. Pink runs off with the diamonds. Then, Mr. Orange reveals to Mr. White that he is, in fact, a cop.

    This wounds Mr. White, who aims a gun at Mr. Orange’s head as cops burst in. We don’t actually see what happens, but my guess is that Mr. White actually shoots Mr. Orange and the cops shoot Mr. White.

    The pacing between the standoff and Mr. Orange revealing his identity is slow, but for good (natural) reason: Mr. White is also shot and it takes longer for him to absorb this new information. That’s one of the reasons this movie works so well. When you reveal a twist, you have to give the audience time to absorb this information before cutting to something else.

What I Gained: When you don’t have a large budget, try and be resourceful with your story. Most of this movie takes place inside a warehouse. Reasons are stated for why they can’t leave the location, so we no longer question their logic.

Use of simple storytelling techniques such as long tracking shots add to the tension already present in the scenes. These techniques are effective and best of all, inexpensive. The other thing you absolutely need in a low budget film: memorable characters. If you can’t afford to show extraneous amounts of your characters’ lives, have them tell a story. Let their words tell you about them.

I would beware of writing a film that doesn’t have a lead, at least as your first script. It’s easier to explore a single character and get him or her fleshed out fully before you write a project where you flesh out SEVERAL characters. That way, you can practice getting one character right before you try getting multiple people eight. That’s a difficult thing to accomplish.

A great film doesn’t necessarily mean you need a huge budget. If you have less toys to play with, the more creative you’ll have to be with those toys. If you have to make it small, for Pete’s sake, make it quotable. Now I’m hungry, let’s go get a taco.

Until next time, Movie Buffs!

Script Link: Reservoir Dogs