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Judgement Week (1 Viewer)

Hand

Senior Member
This is the first scene from a film I'm planning, an end-of-the-world scenario with a Tarantinoesque realism to it. As a first scene, do you think it engages the viewer's interests? Is it a good set-up for what the film is basically about? Do you want to know more?

-Hand

INT. STREETSIDE CAFE - DAY

Two men are seated at the table, a BEARDED MAN wearing a black leather jacket and jeans, and a SMOKING MAN wearing a red lumberjacket and jeans. There is heavy rain falling outside, obscuring the view outside, and drowning out everything besides the conversation.

BEARDED MAN
Have you ever heard of a game called Psychiatrist?

SMOKING MAN
Is it like Operation?

BEARDED MAN
No, man, fucking Operation’s a board game. Everyone’s heard of that one.

SMOKING MAN
Okay, what is it then?

BEARDED MAN
Right. (He takes a big gulp of water.) The trick to Psychiatrist is a lot of friends, a lot of beer-

SMOKING MAN
I hate beer.

BEARDED MAN
-or vodka or bourbon or… look, any alcohol’s fine.

SMOKING MAN
Scotch?

BEARDED MAN
(With sarcasm.) Yeah, I think scotch is one of the “Any” alcohols. But that’s not the direction in which I’m trying to steer this conversation. I was teaching you how to play Psychiatrist.

SMOKING MAN
Okay… how do I play?

BEARDED MAN
What happens, right, is that you have a whole shitload of your friends sitting in a big circle, and they’re what we call “the patients”. And one of these friends is chosen as the psychiatrist, and she has to leave the room.

SMOKING MAN
Does it have to be a she? What if I want to be the psychiatrist?

BEARDED MAN
You can’t be the psychiatrist if you want to be the psychiatrist. The point is that the psychiatrist is chosen completely at random, they have no previous knowledge saying they’re going to be the psychiatrist, and when they’re asked to be the psychiatrist, they’re caught completely off-guard.

SMOKING MAN
So does it have to be a she?

BEARDED MAN
No, man… fuck, I was just using my last game as an example. (He has another sip of water.) Anyway, the psychiatrist leaves the room, and the patients come up with a problem.

SMOKING MAN
Ah, so it’s a problem-solving game?

BEARDED MAN
Kind-of. The patients decide upon a problem, which they’ve all got.

SMOKING MAN
What sort of problems? Asperger’s Syndrome, sociopathy, what?

BEARDED MAN
No no, nothing like that, otherwise she… or he… would never fucking solve it and they’d be there all fucking night.

SMOKING MAN
Unless they had the DSM-IV.

BEARDED MAN
Why would anyone bring the fucking DSM-IV to a party? Fuck the DSM-IV; it has nothing to do with real psychiatry. The patients come up with a problem they all have, like, oh, they think they’re the person three people to their left. And the psychiatrist has to work out what their problem is.

SMOKING MAN
(Stubbing his cigarette out on the table.) So they make up a problem they all have, and the guy playing the psychiatrist has to diagnose them.

BEARDED MAN
You’ve got it.

The SMOKING MAN pulls a cigarette out of one of his pockets.

BEARDED MAN
You should stop using those things. They’ll kill you.

SMOKING MAN
(Searching for a lighter.) Yeah, a lot of things will. So how many turns do they have?

BEARDED MAN
Unlimited turns. Okay, this is the really fun part of the game, and this is where alcohol, or in your case, scotch, comes into play.

SMOKING MAN
Hold on, is this a problem-solving game or a drinking game?

BEARDED MAN
It can be both, depending on how much you drink.

The SMOKING MAN finds a packet of matches in his breast pocket. He lights his cigarette, and seems to enjoy it immensely. The BEARDED MAN stares at him.

SMOKING MAN
(Noticing.) I didn’t have a smoke yesterday.

BEARDED MAN
But one right after the other?

The SMOKING MAN looks at the cigarette, looks at the BEARDED MAN, and stubs this cigarette out too.

SMOKING MAN
It’s not like we’re in short supply of them.

BEARDED MAN
Your lungs are going to be in short supply of fucking air if you don’t cut that shit out of your system. It’s for your own good, you know.

SMOKING MAN
Yeah, yeah. (He relights the cigarette with another match.) Good thinking we have plenty of matches, too. So go on about it.

BEARDED MAN
Where was I?

SMOKING MAN
Uh… something about the fun part.

BEARDED MAN
Fun part… yeah, the psychiatrist starts asking the patients questions, okay. Take that example; you’re three people to your left. Say the person three people to your left is wearing a yellow deerstalker, and you aren’t wearing a hat.

SMOKING MAN
Okay.

BEARDED MAN
If the psychiatrist walks up to you and asks “Are you wearing a hat?”, you say yes.

SMOKING MAN
Because I’m the person three people to my left.

BEARDED MAN
Exactly!

SMOKING MAN
What if the psychiatrist asks me a question, and you don’t know the answer?

BEARDED MAN
Well in that case, you can say either yes or no, because it doesn’t matter. Oh yeah, that’s something I forgot to tell you; the questions have to be closed. Only ones that can be answered with a yes or a no.

SMOKING MAN
So what if I’m wrong, and I say I’m wearing a diving suit though the person three people to my left isn’t?

BEARDED MAN
You wouldn’t say that, because you don’t lie intentionally.

SMOKING MAN
You didn’t tell me that.

BEARDED MAN
Sorry about that.

He goes to drink from his bottle again, but notices it is empty. He stands up and walks off-camera, though he keeps talking.

BEARDED MAN
So if you do unintentionally lie, the person three people to your left, or whoever you’re meant to be, he’ll shout “Psychiatrist”, and that’s basically the signal for everyone to go Mad Hatter and run to a new seat.

SMOKING MAN
And then the questions start again.

BEARDED MAN
Yep.

SMOKING MAN
(Pause.) I can see where the scotch comes in.

They laugh. The BEARDED MAN walks back with a full water bottle, and sits down.

BEARDED MAN
You should have seen the last game I was in. Fucking epic. It was with that theatre group I did lighting for about, oh… two months ago. I think you saw the performance, yeah?

SMOKING MAN
No, too expensive.

BEARDED MAN
Well you know the brunette that said hello to you at my 25th?

SMOKING MAN
Nice tits, was wearing a T-shirt that said “My Face Is Up There”? (He points up for emphasis.)

BEARDED MAN
Harriet, yeah. She was our psychiatrist last time. Pissed out of her fucking brains; she’d had two bottles of champagne, a bottle of vodka and some shit called Coyote before she even stepped into the room.

SMOKING MAN
Coyote’s tequila, I think.

BEARDED MAN
Whatever it was, she was walking around the circle with a beer mug full of it, and she goes and asks my lighting crew workmate David Westerlund if he’s a virgin. He’s three down from someone I don’t know; Hugh I think.

SMOKING MAN
Hugh Monico?

BEARDED MAN
Monico… I think that’s it. How did you guess that?

SMOKING MAN
There’s a theatre magazine in the john. I recognize the name.

BEARDED MAN
Anyway, David says yes, Hugh yells “Psychiatrist” and everyone goes apeshit and runs around and they sit in new seats, and Harriet has no fucking clue what’s just happened.

The SMOKING MAN bursts into laughter.

BEARDED MAN
I’m serious, she was fucking stunned. Brian had to take her aside and explain that no, our malady wasn’t that us going nuts and running around, and basically he sorted her out enough to try again.

SMOKING MAN
Yeah?

BEARDED MAN
And, get this, right; the next person she asked, okay, was…

SMOKING MAN
It wasn’t Hugh, was it?

The BEARDED MAN nods, which causes the SMOKING MAN to laugh wildly, so much that he starts coughing.

SMOKING MAN
Ah fuck, I need a drink.

He gets up and walks off-screen.

SMOKING MAN
How did Hugh take it?

BEARDED MAN
Hugh took it fine, but then Harriet, okay, she says (in a falsetto voice) “Hugh, you are a trustworthy man, a father of three, a…” (back to normal) something, and everyone was laughing so fucking hard at that. I thought I was going to have a goddamn heart attack.

There is a sound of bottles being shuffled around.

SMOKING MAN
They don’t have any scotch! Some fucking café this is.

BEARDED MAN
You're thinking of pubs. Have water, it’s healthier. Anyway, now you know how to play Psychiatrist, the best party game in the history of weekend-long booze-fests.

The SMOKING MAN walks back to the table empty handed, and sits down.

SMOKING MAN
What happened to Harriet?

BEARDED MAN
What do you mean?

SMOKING MAN
You said that game was epic. What you described wasn't epic.

BEARDED MAN
It lasted until 4.30 in the AM; you bet it was epic. By then, I think she had about three litres of the strong stuff in her, not including the vodka cruisers and bourbon-and-cokes. Last shout of “Psychiatrist”, and she went ballistic and said “fuck this”, and puked and collapsed. She had us there for six hours, and she never came close to guessing what was wrong with us.

The two sit quiet for a moment, listening to the sound of the rain. It is easing up.

SMOKING MAN
So much for brunettes being smarter than blondes.

BEARDED MAN
Marilyn Monroe had an IQ of 160.

The SMOKING MAN tries to think of a clever comeback as the two of them stand up.

SMOKING MAN
Yeah, but Marilyn Monroe is dead, and we’re not as unlucky.

BEARDED MAN
No… we’re not.

We now see that the café is completely deserted, besides them. Tables and chairs are overturned, and there’s a mess on the counter. As the rain stops, we realize there are no sounds coming from the road, either. The two walk out of the café, and into the city street, which is also empty. They walk past a couple of broken shop windows, an overturned postal van, and other various signs of turmoil.
 

mammamaia

Senior Member
As a first scene, do you think it engages the viewer's interests?

...no... it's too talky and the talk is too boring... takes too long to get to any kind of point [if there is one]...

Is it a good set-up for what the film is basically about?

...no... not if the point is that the world is screwed and these two bleep-heads either don't have a clue or don't give a rat's rear... none of that stuff about a party game seems to have any relevance whatsoever to a post-apocalyptic plot... didn't have to take pages and pages of senseless dialog to set up the fact that the two guys are ignoring the destruction that's all around them...

Do you want to know more?

...not if it's about those two... they're not engaging or the least bit interesting as characters... if anything, the reader/audience would be wishing they'd gone the way of everyone else...

...sorry to be blunt, but you did ask, and i don't believe sugar-coating the truth helps anyone... i happen to like apocalyptic fiction and films, so it's not that the genre turns me off... it's just your approach to it that does... and those unlikable characters...

...if there's going to be violence occurring later in the story, i won't be able to help you any further, but if it's violence-free, i'd be glad to, if you want... just drop me a line, if you do...

...btw, your writing style and formatting need some work, to conform to industry standards... let me know if you want some examples of what needs fixing, ok?

love and hugs, maia
[email protected]
 
I enjoyed the technique and the focus, but I feel it needs a good deal more strength and impact of the characters.

Your “opening scene chatter” was very good. I have seen people try to feel their way into a Quentin Tarantino style discussion and fall flat on their face. You, for the most part maintained the attention to the Smoking man, and the Bearded man well.

While the flow was maintained, it did not serve as a proper primer for the two characters personalities enough for them to walk out that door and prepare for the next scene. I can honestly say that Tarantino's “Reservoir Dogs” opening scene was enough for me to sit through the rest of that movie (even though the violence in that movie transcends the word gratuitous) because that is all I needed to know about the characters.

I did not learn a whole lot about the two men, and that is what I think is the primary problem. I would want to finish the scene and objectively understand enough about the characters to develop a judgment. Rather than have to analyze the characters in a conversation, I need to know the characters as if I were sitting across from them.

For example, If I began to dislike the Smoking man, or become fond of his quirks, whether they are positive or negative, I stop concentrating on the conversation as the focal point, and start to concentrate on the people.

If you were to have them constantly interacting with the environment, it would defeat the scene's purpose, and you would have nothing, so stick with this technique, and make them get a reaction out of me so I can define them without thinking twice.

I look forward to reading more
 
No point in conforming to any sort of industry standard, if you're making this film yourself (which, I'm assuming, you are). No point looking for technical errors in something that's never going to be read with an eye for writing style or technique. So, on to the content.

First problem, like the previous reviewers have said, is that the script is too talky. Film depends on motion and progression based on its physical properties. Talking is the realm of theatre. Thoughts are for novels. Films are about action!

There's a great book on screenwriting by Eugene Vale that lists and describes the different tools at the screenwriters disposal and, of these, dialogue is one of very, very many (others include sets, props, actions, etc.) and should be used as a last resort. Basically, anything you convey through dialogue should be impossible to convey in another way (unless you're taking a shortcut, for which you may have a good reason). Remember, cinema used to be silent!

This hits on another important point; dialogue is there for a reason. It should progress the plot, build character, add backstory, connect scenes, or do something else functional. Witty banter for the sake of witty banter does not cinema make.

When Alfred Hitchcock got around to writing scripts (he usually worked with several screenwriters on one script, but always contributed a ton to them) he had the entire film written out without dialogue! For any dialogue, he would simply write something along the lines of, "Joe and Schubert meet in Coogan's bar. They discuss the kidnapping." The details of what was said were added later. And if you watch a Hitchcock film (one with sound), you can pretty much follow the story en mute.

Film is a narrative medium, but it's also, and more importantly, a visual one. Even non-narrative films are visual. You need to take this into account when writing. It's good that you include some actions that the characters do while they speak (the lighter stuff, for example) but that's not nearly enough. Make visual whatever you can. Since you're writing for yourself, write in what type of shots you want and where. Think like a filmmaker, not a writer.

The other big thing is the length of the scene. I'm not sure how long this would be if formatted correctly with proper margins and all that, but it's too long! Grab some scripts of your favourite films (http://www.simplyscripts.com/full_movie.html) and check how long the scenes are. In most cases, they don't go over 3 pages. Sometimes there are 2 or 3 on one page. Think of each scene as a block that builds your film. Unlike in novel writing, you're given a fixed number of blocks to work with. Use them wisely.

If you're planning to shoot this yourself, make sure to keep things reasonable. Do you have time to wait for rain? Is the rain vital to the story? Can you find a restaurant that will let you shoot afterhours? Will they let you break their windows? Can you find a stretch of road that you can close off and overturn a postal van on? How will you block off the street? You'll need permits.

If I misunderstood, and you're writing with an intention of selling your script as a spec, or using as a writing sample, then there's a whole other bucket of monkeys to open.
 
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