Due Date: Wednesday, December 7
- Create a sustained scene from a play or screenplay that shows confrontation, resolution, and change in a protagonist.
- Obey presentation standards more stringent than the ones we experimented with in the Fiction unit.
Means of Evaluation
- Your score on the rubric for Unit 5: The Play/Screenplay; this rubric is also available at our course webspace in Blackboard.
Here you are at last: creating the play or screenplay, feeling that mixture of hope, exhilaration, and icy fear--compounded by the fatigue of a long session and the irresistable attraction of the impending winter break.
Take a breath. This is the fun part!
Keep this in mind: like poems, plays and scripts are made things. Like poems, they offer profound insights into the human condition; like stories and novels, they accomplish their mission through action and dialogue, and, like memoirs, they hold mirrors up to ourselves and to all the rest of the world.
But they do not drop fully formed from your brow. You must work to make them worth reading.
Think of it this way: a finished script is the gateway to a collaborative process wherein the work is staged or filmed. But you must first create a script so good other artists will want to collaborate with you.
Remember how much you love movies and plays. Give that pleasure to the rest of the world.
Your submission should be an extended scene approximately 1000-1500 words that sets up and then resolves a question or situation.
First, let's take a little walk around and through an especially-resonant scene from the film Moonrise Kingdom. Our purpose here is to enjoy a scene from a critically-praised and financially-successful recent film. The script, by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, was nominated for the Academy award for Best Original Screenplay.
This scene is the inciting moment that propels the whole film. In it, the protagonists meet, and after that meeting, nothing is the same--and action must be taken. Sam sees Suzy for the first time in a dressing room during a church play and is instantly and visibly smitten. The question, of course, is whether she is smitten with him. Anderson and Coppola generate suspense by making us wonder if she feels the connection with him that he clearly feels with her (note how hard he stares. It is intense enough to draw a comment from another character.)
First, read the scene. Here are the three pages that make up the action in this film clip: start with EXT. WIDE MEADOW. DAY
After reading the scene, view it. See for yourself what actors bring to an already-excellent piece of writing. Make a note of the split second Sam gets his answer--and when we by extension get ours. No one "tells" us; we see all of the emotion through action.
What action, specifically? See for yourself. View the scene a second time and pay particular attention to how Suzy and Sam behave after their chance encounter: Sam sits in a daze on the bus, and Suzy stands on a pedestal spreading her costume wings, chanting "Hear it, hear it, hear it--the call!" On that second viewing, do the setting and the actions of the characters take on an emotional--even symbolic--resonance?
So-- please enjoy this scene:
- Clip from Moonrise Kingdom
After you view the clip, observe the same scene as the director, Wes Anderson, comments on what he intended to achieve artistically. Click on the link below:
Now, to cement the reality that scripts are intentional and collaborative, click on the link below and observe moments from the actual film set:
"Moonrise Kingdom [Behind the Scenes I]" by Amras Taralom
And finally, if you like, click on the link below to see the entire screenplay:
Fired up now?
For your screenplay, choose an option:
- Write a screenplay adaptation of your Short Story arc as the main action. This will be your opportunity to clarify the essential conflict in that piece and practice a presentation style that is utterly dependent on action and dialogue. Your scene might be a fleshed-out version of the inciting moment or the crisis/climax/denouement finish.
- Write a story in which a character changes from:
- angry to ashamed
- attracted to disgusted
- exhausted to enthusiastic
- determined to uncertain
- Write a one-act play placing two characters in conflict: one wants something the other also wants--or does not want to give. Be sure to focus on one character’s desire and how that desire is either thwarted or fulfilled by the other character. What does each character learn from the encounter? In "The Interview" by Amira E---------both women want the same job. As you read it, observe how they each make terrible discoveries about themselves and each other and are changed forever.
- Adapt your memoir as a screenplay. Think I'm kidding? Think of the success and importance of films like Selma, American Sniper, Straight Outta Compton, The Imitation Game, and The Theory of Everything, all of which are based on memoirs.
- Compose a short, screen-worthy arc from a longer narrative you are already contemplating. Choose a moment where someone learns something that changes him or her forever—or must take an action after learning that something.
For whichever option you choose, remember that the confrontation doesn't have to be violent; something, however, should surprise the protagonist, resulting in a changed situation or an answered question.
Don't forget the components of all plots:
Consider doing a mock-up or outline of your plot using the list above. This really helps.
- Exposition/Back Story
- Problem/Inciting moment
- Rising Action/Complication
If you haven't already, read "The Interview" by Amira E--------, a wonderful little script by a Creative Writing student in the Spring session. Each woman wants the job, and only one woman can have it; look at how the experience changes them both--and you, too, as you read.
Once you have worked out your story, your conflict, and your arc, draft out specific moments from your outline list.
Don't stop and edit. Just move forward until you have done the whole thing. Trust me on this.
Expect to render an incoherent first draft.
Click on the link for the screenplay template. Type your work straight into that amazing template. Allow the template to help you shape your screenplay. Remember that one page of script is one whole minute of film time.
Give your play or movie an interesting name. Start with a moment that will grab our eyes and make us want to read more and more and more.
Wait a couple of days, and then read over what you have written. Chances are, you'll see immediately what needs to stay, what needs more development, and what needs to go. Expect to do this at least three times. If you do, you'll really and truly be functioning like a professional writer.
Or you can throw something together at ten p.m. on December 7 and always bitterly wonder what you might have done if you had allowed yourself to do it.
The choice has always been yours to make.
As you go through your draft at least two more times, concentrate on the clarity of your stage directions. Think about how you want the scene to look: interior, exterior--dim, bright, textured like Moonrise Kingdom, or more austere, like the French New-Wave film Jules et Jim by Francois Truffaut.
Look to the Anderson/Coppola screenplay for tips about getting across how you want your scene filmed or staged.
Don't forget that your scene should be between 1000 and 1500 words (this is an approximation; it's okay if you run a little long if it's good). Also, be sure to use the template for your submission.
Submit your work by deadline. The script is due on Wednesday, December 7, by midnight. Please make sure that you have followed format submission guidelines provided by the template model.
The burden will be on you to prove that your work was submitted on time.
- Be sure that you check the box in your Atlas email that says, "Save a copy to the 'sent' folder."
- Confirm that the email is indeed in your sent folder.
- Make sure that you see the paperclip icon that indicates the attachment went through.
- After you send a piece via Atlas, you will get a response from me that says that I have received your work. If you do not receive this receipt within 48 hours, contact me from Atlas immediately.
Email me through Atlas if you have any questions.
FYI: Moonrise Kingdom, dir. Wes Anderson, Perf. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Indian Paintbrush, 2012. Film.