Great advice from Brian Koppelman about first drafts and doubt.
Director: Luc Besson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Tommy Lee Jones
Tagline: Some call it organized crime. Others call it family.
A family escaping from a bigger family (the mob). Exotic locales, Americans living out stereotypes, Deniro getting violent. Explosions!
We’ve got Robert Deniro, the Rolling Stones, and hip 70s clothes.
But that’s not all! We’ve also got italian-ish character actors:
New word developed at work today:
Mystifying + Pissed = Pisstified or Pisstifying
Usage: “Why did they eat all of my leftovers? It had my name on it and everything. It’s completely pisstifying!”
The need: To very quickly get an idea out of my head and onto my phone/device.
The problem: Carrying around paper and pen doesn’t always work. It’s an extra thing for my pockets, my handwriting is atrocious, and I’d often forget to transcribe it to digital form later.
The solution: Drafts from Agile Tortoise (a software company, not a ninja turtle).
Why it works: Tap on it and it loads to a fresh document in under a second. No waiting. No selecting “new document”, no navigating to the correct notebook in Evernote, no fumbling around trying to email yourself while your idea floats away, never to be seen again.
Why it’s awesome: It’s more than just quick note-taking. It’s all about shuttling those ideas quickly too. Say you want to send that note as a txt to a friend? No problem, it’s built in. Or as an email to yourself? Easy. Or post it to twitter, Facebook and Google Plus all at the same time? Doable.
This is all possible because Drafts has a ton of built-in actions you can use to get your ideas other places. When you have time, after your idea is safely in digital form, it’s time to sort through things. Just tap the share icon and…
With one more tap, I can send it to append an already existing Evernote note, create a new note based on the date/title/whatever, email it to myself, post to twitter, etc. Super convenient. No more copy/pasting (which no one likes to do on a mobile device).
I find it incredibly useful, perhaps you will to. Here’s the iTunes link for your convenience (it’s $2.99). Oh, and just because I’m a nerd, here are the icon alternatives I came up with (because the only thing I don’t like about it so far is the somewhat drab icon). Enjoy.
If you want to write films, you must read scripts and watch movies. Simple. With that in mind, I sat down to watch Beverly Hills Cop (probably for the 7th or 8th time) for just one purpose. Let’s call it a Single Purpose Viewing (SPV). That purpose? How the action scenes moved the story along.
I’ve read that one of the many cardinal sins of action films is that the action sequences (you know, those things from the trailer that got you to buy a ticket) only exist to show action. They don’t actually advance the plot, develop the characters, or do anything for the story. If you took them out of the film, the story would still make perfect sense.
Since I’m in the process of outlining an action-comedy, I want to do it right. That’s where Eddie Murphy and Beverly Hills Cop fits in.
Our fast talking hero is introduced in the back of a truck full of illegal cigarrettes. He’s a quick talker that doesn’t want to be ripped off. Quickly it transforms into a chase with crashes, an explosion, and cop cars wrecked wrapped around lightpoles. Not exactly what he’d planned.
At the end of the chase, the line: “Foley, we shoulda known it was you.” is uttered. It’s the first time his name is mentioned. Now we know:
1) He’s viewed as a screwup.
2) He takes risks.
3) His schemes get out of hand.
4) He probably has disregard for the rules.
This is all confirmed by the next scene with his boss.
The non-action scenes set things up, establish relationships, make the consequences of the action scenes matter. We see that he and his friend are true pals, so we’re saddened when he gets shot. This scene makes the entire movie happen, so there’s no possibility of it being inconsequential. It is brutal though. The henchman seems like he’ll let him go, only to shoot him in the back of the head. So now we feel, just a little bit more, Foley’s need for justice/revenge.
Foley visits his prime suspect, only to be thrown out of an office window by 6 guys. The absurdity of this happening (as opposed to someone opening the damned door instead) isn’t lost on anyone. Foley immediately comments on it. It also serves to get Foley together with our friends at the Bervely Hills Police Department. Now we have:
1) Added suspicion on the guy who tossed him out.
2) Connections with the local police.
Beverly Hills Cop doesn’t have a great number of major action sequences (the sequel packs them in a bit more). But the ones it does have serves their purpose. The strip joint robbery attempt may seem like a throway scene, but it does many things:
1) Establish that Foley is a good detective, observant.
2) Shows that Foley can be serious when required.
3) Foley is now respected by the Beverly Hills cops, instead of being seen as a fool.
Lessers movies could have done all of these things with dialogue or flashbacks, but the audience would much rather see them come to light with shotguns and bare breasts.
When Foley and his friend are captured (a quick reversal of fortunes), it’s up to Billy, the “nice guy cop” to step up. It gives him the responsibility, him the power. He steps up, showing that he’s grown and isn’t as beholden to the rules & regulations of his world. The student saves the teacher.
The final action sequence culminates in a grand shootout. The other Beverly Hills cops show up, crossing over that line that held them back previously (search warrants, telling the truth, etc.). They’ve overcome a handicap, of sorts, by helping Foley on his quest. It’s an interesting twist in which the protagonist doesn’t grow an awful lot, but his supporting characters come to see the wisdom in his choices instead.
Just to make this post 60% more 80’s, here’s the theme song for your enjoyment.
Lethal Weapon 2 by Jeffrey Boam
Unknown Revision Script. April 1989 (with draft pages dating back to December 1988). 121 pages
The successful followup to the action comedy blockbuster that redefined the genre. Or, for those having trouble remembering all the sequels to movies from the 80s: Mel Gibson fights South Africans and an exploding toilet. See, that jogged your memory.
The script for this film used to be online, but was removed (likely at Warner Bros’ request). So everyone online links back to the same broken page. Not be deterred, I located a physical copy of the script from a friendly library. This had the added benefit of being remarkably close to what we see in the finished film. The scenes are numbered and the sequences underlined (“Opening Chase” for example), so I’m betting this was the shooting script (or revised after the fact to closely match the finished film).
I sought out this particular script because 1) it’s a fun movie, 2) it’s a different writer’s take on someone else’s characters (although two other writer’s are credited for the story) and 3) I’m also writing an action comedy. What works? What doesn’t? How do they balance the comedy and the action? Does every action sequence serve a narrative purpose? How do the characters evolve from the previous film in the series? How different is this film while keeping some of the stuff that made it so popular in the first outting? That’s the mindset I went in with.
When you start working on a story, the characters are like finger-puppets, and putting words into their mouths is a bit embarrassing, like you’re sitting at your desk waggling your hands at one another and making them speak in funny, squeaky voices. But once those characters ‘‘catch,’’ they become people, and writing them feels more like you’re recounting something that happened than something you’re making up.