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Daily Dialogue theme for the week: Facing death

After a snark-filled week of dialogue [thanks to Gabe for that suggestion, up next for the theme for next week, a suggestion by @tiffanyleigh and @al_grinter: Facing Death.

You know the drill:

* Copy/paste dialogue from IMDB Quotes or some other transcription source.

* Copy/paste the URL of an accompanying video from MovieClips or YouTube.

We have one more theme on the schedule:

April 9-15: Inspiration [Summer Johnson]

After that we’ll open it up for new suggestions.

But for now, the challenge is to come up with seven great pieces of dialogue that involve facing death. See you in comments!

Movie Trailer: “House at the End of the Street”

Production notes:

Seeking a fresh start, newly divorced Sarah (Oscar®-nominee Elisabeth Shue; Leaving Las Vegas, Piranha 3D) and her daughter Elissa (Oscar®-nominee Jennifer Lawrence; X-Men: First Class, Winter’s Bone) find the house of their dreams in a small, upscale, rural town. But when startling and unexplainable events begin to happen, Sarah and Elissa learn the town is in the shadows of a chilling secret. Years earlier, in the house next door, a daughter killed her parents in their beds, and disappeared – leaving only a brother, Ryan (Max Thieriot, My Soul to Take), as the sole survivor. Against Sarah’s wishes, Elissa begins a relationship with the reclusive Ryan – and the closer they get, the deeper they’re all pulled into a mystery more dangerous than they ever imagined.

David Loucka (screenplay), Jonathan Mostow (story)

IMDB site

Release date: September 21, 2012

Via Slashfilm.

Scene Description Spotlight: "Saving Private Ryan"

I doubt anyone who has seen Saving Private Ryan (written by Robert Rodat, directed by Steven Spielberg) will ever forget the film’s opening 20 minutes. So incredibly graphic, I can still remember the special ABC’s Ted Koppel did with some of the Normandy invasion survivors, screening the movie with them, many of them moved to tears at how well the film conveyed the chaos and horror of that initial amphibious assault on June 6, 1944.

Here we look at the opening few pages of the film’s screenplay to see how Rodat manages to orchestrate the action while conjuring up a vivid sense of what it felt like to hit the Normandy beaches on that fateful day:

FADE IN:

CREDITS: White lettering over a back background. The
THUNDEROUS SOUNDS OF A MASSIVE NAVAL BARRAGE are heard. The
power is astonishing. It roars through the body, blows back
the hair and rattles the ears.

FADE IN:

EXT. OMAHA BEACH - NORMANDY - DAWN

The ROAR OF NAVAL GUNS continues but now WE SEE THEM FIRING.

Huge fifteen inch guns.

SWARM OF LANDING CRAFT

Heads directly into a nightmare. MASSIVE EXPLOSIONS from
German artillery shells and mined obstacles tear apart the
beach. Hundreds of German machine guns, loaded with tracers,
pour out a red snowstorm of bullets.

OFFSHORE

SUPERIMPOSITION:

OMAHA BEACH, NORMANDY
June 6, 1944
0600 HOURS

HUNDREDS OF LANDING CRAFT Each holding thirty men, near the
beaches.

THE CLIFFS

At the far end of the beach, a ninety-foot cliff. Topped by

bunkers. Ringed by fortified machine gun nests. A clear line-
of-fire down the entire beach.

TEN LANDING CRAFT

Make their way toward the base of the cliffs. Running a
gauntlet of explosions.

SUPERIMPOSITION:

THE FOLLOWING IS BASED
ON A TRUE STORY

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT

Plows through the waves.

THE CAMERA MOVES PAST THE FACES OF THE MEN

Boys. Most are eighteen or nineteen years old. Tough. Well-
trained.

Trying to block out the fury around them.

A DIRECT HIT ON A NEARBY LANDING CRAFT

A huge EXPLOSION of fuel, fire, metal and flesh.

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT

The Motorman holds his course. Shells EXPLODE around them.

FLAMING OIL BURNS on the water. CANNON FIRE SMASHES into the
bow.

THE MOTORMAN IS RIPPED TO BITS

BLOOD AND FLESH shower the men behind him. The mate takes
the controls.

A YOUNG SOLDIER

His face covered with the remains of the motorman. Starts to
lose it. Begins to shudder and weep. His name is DeLancey.

THE BOYS AROUND HIM

Do their best to stare straight ahead. But the fear infects
them. It starts to spread.

A FIGURE

Pushes through the men. Puts himself in front of DeLancey.

The figure is CAPTAIN JOHN MILLER. Early thirties. By far
the oldest man on the craft. Relaxed, battle-hardened,
powerful, ignoring the hell around them. He smiles, puts a
cigar in his mouth, strikes a match on the front of DeLancey's
helmet and lights the cigar.

DeLancey tries to look away but Miller grips him by the jaw
and forces him to lock eyes. Miller smiles. DeLancey is
terrified.

DELANCEY
Captain, are we all gonna die?

MILLER
Hell no, two-thirds, tops.

DELANCEY
Oh, Jesus...

MILLER
I want every one of you to look at
the man on your left. Now look at
the man on your right. Feel sorry
for those to sons-of-bitches, they're
going to get it, you're not going to
get a scratch.

A few, including DeLancey, manage thin smiles. Miller releases
his grip on DeLancey who moves his jaw as if to see if it's
broken. Miller pats him on the cheek and moves on to the
bow.

MILLER

Looks over the gunwale at THE HELL IN FRONT OF THEM.

PAN DOWN TO MILLER'S HAND

It quivers in fear. Miller glances around, sees that none of
the men have noticed. He stares at his hand as if it belongs
to someone else. It stops shaking. He turns his eyes back to
the objective.

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT HITS THE BEACH

The six surviving boats alongside.

EXPLOSIVE PROPELLED GRAPPLING HOOKS FIRE

From the landing crafts. Arc toward the top of the cliffs.

THE LEAD CRAFT RAMP GOES DOWN

A river of MACHINE GUN FIRE pours into the craft. A dozen
men are INSTANTLY KILLED. Among them, DeLancey.

MILLER

Somehow survives. Jumps into the breakers.

MILLER
MOVE, GODDAMN IT! GO! GO! GO

EXPLOSIONS EVERYWHERE

Note how Rodat uses Secondary Slugs to ‘direct’ the action. Here they are in a list, stripped of any other scene description:

SWARM OF LANDING CRAFT

OFFSHORE

THE CLIFFS

TEN LANDING CRAFT

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT

A DIRECT HIT ON A NEARBY LANDING CRAFT

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT

THE CAMERA MOVES PAST THE FACES OF THE MEN

THE MOTORMAN IS RIPPED TO BITS

A YOUNG SOLDIER

THE BOYS AROUND HIM

A FIGURE

MILLER

PAN DOWN TO MILLER'S HAND

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT HITS THE BEACH

EXPLOSIVE PROPELLED GRAPPLING HOOKS FIRE

THE LEAD CRAFT RAMP GOES DOWN

MILLER

EXPLOSIONS EVERYWHERE

Some observations:

* Rodat uses some of the secondary slugs simply to identify a location (e.g., OFFSHORE, THE CLIFFS) or a character (e.g., A FIGURE, MILLER), but other times he conveys action within the slug itself: A DIRECT HIT ON A NEARBY LANDING CRAFT, THE MOTORMAN IS RIPPED TO BITS, THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT HITS THE BEACH. He could have chosen to do this:

A NEARBY LANDING CRAFT

Hit directly by an artillery shell.

THE MOTORMAN

is ripped to bits.

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT

hits the beach.

But he didn’t. Why? I think the reason he put the action in the slugs is because by capping the description, he makes the action BIGGER, befitting how big this sequence is. In other words, he makes the action impossible to ignore.

* Each secondary slug suggests a different camera shot, so in effect Rodat is able to ‘direct’ the action without using directing lingo — except of course when he does, which is twice:

THE CAMERA MOVES PAST THE FACES OF THE MEN

PAN DOWN TO MILLER'S HAND

But aren’t we told not to use directing language? Yes, and that still holds — for selling scripts. That’s the draft we write to sell the story. A shooting script is for purposes of producing the movie. In this case, Rodat already knew the script was sold: When Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks say they want to make a war movie, you’ve pretty much already got a green light. So this draft is, while not quite a shooting script, also not quite a selling script either.

I’m sure Rodat had been working very closely with Spielberg as he wrote this draft and those two shots are probably something that Spielberg insisted go in the script, specific shots reflecting how Spielberg planned to shoot the scene.

And really, both shots are classic Spielberg, small human moments amidst the larger chaos, something viewers could dial into and experience to enhance the emotional connection to these characters as they transitioned into a living hell…

… a row of frightened young men, an incredible range of fevered emotions etched in their faces as the bombs rain down all around them…

… and a close up of Miller’s hand shaking to belie his own fear as well as set up a significant recurring image — Miller’s shaking hand is called back several times in the movie — shaking that ends only when Miller’s life ends, his hand finally still.

Secondary sluglines are one of the most valuable tools a screenwriter has to write action scenes, not only to direct the action by suggesting camera shots, but also, as Rodat demonstrates, by putting action in the slugs, we can convey to the reader just how big the action is.

[Originally posted February 4, 2010]