10 Famous Film Scripts and What You Can Learn from Them
By Alison Nastasi, Flavorwire, 23 February 2014
Link in each to script itself. Screenplays not script-o-rama transcriptions from films without stage directions.
Chinatown, Blue Velvet, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Taxi Driver, Pulp Fiction, Casablanca, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Breathless [you film buffs should have question mark above your heads here..but read on], Jaws, Citizen Kane.
10. Citizen Kane. In case you can’t figure out how to find the link, it’s in two stages. First to Cinephila and Filmmaking, from the link ‘said’, then off that very interesting page to the script itself. Don’t miss the Cinephila post: facsimile title page of Welles’ own war-torn, scribbled on copy dated 9 July 1940 and four photos of the young Welles.
Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Lifeboat’: An Expertly Composed Allegorical Thriller That Deserves More Recognition
Another brilliant essay from Cinephila & Beyond.
The screenplay is embedded as usual. The facsimiles always seem to give that little bit extra somehow. A typewritten one for added heck. Is it a script fetish? I don’t know.
Click on the expand button, top right of screenplay box. If your browser is set for open in new tab, it’ll be in a new tab as the pdf that can also be downloaded. Link in text.
But for the script hounds and film-making fanatics all sorts of other goodies down – oh dear, everyone’s using this now – the rabbit hole. Going by the testimonials which are mighty impressive – even professionals are greatly enamoured with Cinephilia & Beyond.
“Secret Energy and Vital Intelligence”: On Karel Reisz’s Adaptation of The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)
Bright Lights Film Journal, 5 October 2015
The French Lieutenant’s Woman – eBook
An earlier COTA post John Fowles, book and film.
It highlights a post by Litlove of the book, and links to the late great Harold Pinter website, where he writes a bit about his approach [and to other screenplays]. O.k., who can list his screenplays? Who forgot he received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2005?
There is a link to TFTW dialogue script from script-o-rama. The warning I always add is, don’t forget these are transcriptions and do not have the necessary, essential screenwriter stage instructions that the proper script has. Why not try splitting the script up into scenes and add your own directions.
Other COTA posts on Pinter can be found by searching on Pinter. One on his screenplays which was never filmed, ended up as a successful BBC Radio drama, The Pinter Proust Play, with Pinter narrating.
Screenplay by Michael Tolkien
20 April 1989
Untold Stories of Robert Altman’s The Player or Who the Hell is Thereza Ellis?
Blog: Eddie Copeland’s Tangents, 10 April 2012
American Exuberance: The Films of Robert Altman
The Player by Roger Ebert 1992
Robert Altman’s ‘The Player’: What Lessons Hollywood Has Learned From The Showbiz Satire
Gary Susman, 9 April 2012
GoogleBook Robert Altman by Mitchell Zuckoff
Enjoy the many photographers and as much of the text as possible. Nothing is free. if it is free then there’s a catch somewhere. In this case it’s trying to guess what’s in that missing page.
GoogleBook: Altman on Altman by David Thompson
Section on The Player: he considered it a bad script. Talks of Tolkien’s novel  from which he adapted the screenplay, not having an ending.
The Imitation Game vs. The Imitation Game
Why Can’t Movies Capture Genius?
–Three films about British brains show the trouble of bringing otherworldly intelligence to the big screen. You can show J.M.W Turner’s paintings or Alan Turing’s computer but never get inside their minds.
Clive Irving, Daily Beast, 14 Dec 2014
Why Are We So Obsessed With Geniuses on Film?
John Powers, Vogue, November 25, 2014
Our Genius Problem
–Why this obsession with the word, with the idea, and with the people on whom we’ve bestowed the designation?
Marjorie Garber, Atlantic, 23 Mar 2011
Almásy: Well, a thing is still a thing no matter what you place in front of it.
Every night I cut out my heart. But in the morning it was full again.
“Um, Maddox, that place — that place at the base of a woman’s throat, you know, the hollow, here. Does it have an official name?”
“In case you’re still wondering, this is called a suprasternal notch”
How often should one re-watch The English Patient?
I’d recommend a 2 to 2 1/2 year interval. Lawrence of Arabia about 3.
The English Patient “Red Original” [someone might enlighten us as to what red refers to..]
The English Patient (1996) “movie script, Revised Draft. 28th August, 1995.”
The Lion of Literary Adaptation: How Anthony Minghella’s ‘The English Patient’ Became as Enduringly Definitive as It Has Been Challenging by Christine Spines, Word & Film, 4 October 2011
Photo from: Christopher Fowler*’s Blog
‘The differences between a screenplay and a novel are equivalent to the differences between a blueprint and a finished building.’
The idea came to me to search on novel vs. script, without really knowing precisely what I was looking for. Mostly about, Am I writing a novel or a screenplay?, and if others puzzle over and articulate on this. But one thing leads to another.
Rebecca Chace, a published novelist, writing in Publishing Perspectives, did screenplay to novel to screenplay: Literary 360: Rebecca Chace on Going from Screenplay to Novel to Screenplay. Summary: if you write a screenplay then feel like writing the novel, put the script away and write from scratch.
I don’t think I could do that. I’m pretty sure I’d be checking scenes in the script and trying to pad it out with prose and re-jig. Though they say since a script is for a film – sound and vision – how you piece together the story is so radically different in a novel, that’s not going to achieve the result.
True perhaps of the narrative structure, but the scenes you have written in a script can be visualised so well, are bound to be there as you write your novel. After all you sit there seeing the scenes and then you write the script. I can see one particular part of a story I wrote. I can live inside this place, move around it so easily, even ‘film’ extra shots and re-see them edited in where I think they might fit. How to ‘epoché’ the lot written as a script to sit down and write from scratch looks impossible from where I’m sitting.
At the same time, how can you not think of the beginning of a novel, a long, drawn out languorous first few paragraphs, and not see it or attempt to frame it visually? O.K., pick a really hard one to be awkward. Para 1, Book 1, The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil, [Wilkins/Kaiser translation].
There was a depression over the Atlantic. It was traveling eastwards, towards an area of high pressure over Russia, and still showed no tendency to move northwards around it. The isotherms and isotheres were fulfilling their functions. The atmospheric temperature was in proper relation to the average annual temperature, the temperature of the coldest as well as of the hottest month, and the a-periodic monthly variation in temperature. The rising and the setting of the sun and of the moon, the phases of the moon, Venus and Saturn’s rings, and many other important phenomena, were in accordance with the forecasts in the astronomical yearbooks. The vapour in the air was at its highest tension, and the moisture in the air was at its lowest. In short, to use an expression that describes the facts pretty satisfactorily, even though it is somewhat old-fashioned: it was a fine August day in the 1913.
MWQ has never been filmed. Not because of that intro that could be scripted, but it’s an essayist novel. Always had the same trouble with A la Research, though it’s been attempted usually in part such as Time Regained, Raul Ruiz,1999. (Sidenote: BBC radio version of Proust was effective. Pinter’s Proust Play – a screenplay no one would film – was brilliant, but had whole chunks of the book missing. Pinter decided to leave out the Madeline, and use the sound of bells as a linking device. But this is another subject: film script vs. radio script)
How To People all over the place are having their say about novel and script [screenplay]. The Novel vs. The Screenplay: A Practical Guide for Talented Writers by James Bonnet in Storymaking.com. One thing caught my eye:
…the screenplay can be an excellent first draft for a novel.
Anyone who has started writing a story, who is interested in both forms, knows this can go either way. And sometimes there can be such a conflict that a novel and a script are developed in parallel without a final decision about which to finish and which to drop. The advantage of doing both is if you were shifting more to novel – but you’ve been playing with a script – you’re ready to think about the adaptation! Then there’s the thing about writing a novel in a film like way. Common now. But go back to writers like Graham Greene.
Peter Bauer says briefly pretty much the same thing (‘The differences between a screenplay and a novel are equivalent to the differences between a blueprint and a finished building.’ ), but shows how the script can’t just be transposed into a novel and why.
All these things are what you work out for yourself but it’s handy to have someone laying it out clearly.
Screenplay vs. Novel in Anatomy of Perceval, 20 July 2013. All sorts of writing things and 6 degrees to.
(Every wonder if a website on writing you are reading is just some guy in a bedroom with a dream? He hasn’t got a published novel nor is he a Hollywood scriptwriter…)
This was a post in a previous blog of mine called Moleskine modality, which is linked to from here. Looking for a post I did on Bliar and the Iraq invasion of 2003, I also had a quick look at what I had written in Moleskine. It’s defunct as a posting site, but has a great many links to all sorts of things that might be useful. It was as much about books and writers as film. I decided to move on to a dedicated film (and a bit of photography) blog instead of book/film. It was partly because I was getting fed up with Blogger. It seems a lot better now, and has even got pretty good free themes which tend to show up WordPress.
So here’s the post on screenplays as literature, or not:
It’s his title, not mine. This essay has three parts:
Are Screenplays literature? Part I
Are Screenplays Literature? Part II
Are Screenplays Literature? Part III
This came about because of a decision suddenly – the decision version of a flash memory which had a simple, clear nachrechtfertigung to drop a very absorbing and pleasurably expanding (the polite word for ideas-creep) novel in favour of a very ancient screenplay/novel project which began in the late 80s.
Without getting through the first part of this essay on the screenplay I was already running with the notions. Yes, of course, the film = the novel. Then: what, if we are drawing tables of analogues, is the novel equivalent of the screenplay? Reading on I see the publication of screenplays as if they were literature has become the thing.
I have never seen the screenplay as the finished product. The bit that we do when we read the book (because it is the reader input which adds the final touch to the skill and insights of the writer) is what the writer (constantly readjusting his script to the needs of the film), director, actors, cinematographer, stage designer, location manager do. Then, as I have hinted at in some of the links under screenplay/scripts, there are later adaptations of the original screenplay floating about which the novice would have no idea are not the start point. It can be difficult to see which is which when someone hasn’t been careful enough at the time to record what is what, and/or because things get lost.
I have mentioned something I noticed when doing a generalised screenplay foray a while back: often what you see online is someone’s transcription of the film, not the screenplay itself.
To make the screenplay as much like the finished novel ( = [novel] + [readers cognition]} necessitated the writer’s instructions. Stating the bleeding obvious, though a perfect dialogue by itself can work pretty well given an imaginative reader, without ‘stage’ direction something of what is in most novels has been left out. Strictly speaking like is not being compared to like.
The money quotes come from part III:
What is Literature?
The 19th-century novelist George Eliot (a woman writing under a man’s name) defined literature this way: “the nearest thing to life; it is a mode of amplifying experience and extending our contact with our fellow-men beyond the bounds (=limits) of our personal lot (=fate).”
Terrence McGiver, a teacher, expands the definition: “Literature helps us grow, both personally and intellectually. It provides an objective base for knowledge and understanding. It links us with the cultural, philosophic, and religious world of which we are part. It enables us to recognize human dreams and struggles in different places and times that we otherwise would never know existed. It helps us develop mature sensibility and compassion for the condition of all living things — human, animal and vegetable. It gives us the knowledge and perception to appreciate the beauty of order and arrangement, which a well-constructed song or a beautifully painted canvas also gives us.”
Other observers have pointed out that literature is written to be read aesthetically; that it emphasizes character over plot; that it must be worth re-reading; that it contains enduring human themes; that it is the opposite of trash.
All these definitions give clues why it’s so easy to conclude that screenplays are not literature.
Screenwriting 2.0 in the Classroom? Teaching the Digital Screenplay
Andrew Kenneth Gay, Frames Film Journal, Issue 1 2012 [University of St Andrews]
Table of Contents Issue 1
Transcriptions like these are often put in script sites. Cetainly handy for the dialogue when things get tricky, but without the headings and narrative descriptions (including sound) a lot is missing! Though it might be a useful exercise to put them in based on your own viewing.
A selection (which happen to be excellent films too):
For these two (also a great film) the thing is to compare transcript and script proper:
Here from Moleskine Modality, gathered together all the film related post (some are not on film per se but have ‘film’ in the text). Again, by using
EDIT > FIND in this page > HIGHLIGHT all
it’s easy to scamper down the page quickly looking for all occurrences of the word film to find something you might be interested in, rather than trawling through the lot.
It would be better to get everything across in bulk to make the text and links a better database to access, but it’s not possible, so various bits are being selected as they re-interest me. Today its film.
There is a movie category in the Moleskine Modality blogroll with a mixture of fiction and non-fiction films which came into view. They are not all serious. One link is to Great Directors from the great film site Senses of Cinema