Sunday, May 18, 2008

The killer monologue

Every year during the Oscar broadcast the Academy people have to decide which scenes to show as the example of how awesome the actor nominees are.

There's always all this passion on screen, usually part of some key confrontation between the lead and some other character, a cathartic moment with a lot of yelling or crying or emotional reveal. Sometimes I wonder about those scenes and how they came about - what makes a moment on the page that transcends simple dialogue and becomes a thing of beauty.

I've written some pretty good scenes before and I'm really proud of Not Dead Yet, but I don't think there's a scene in there that would pick up and Oscar. I mean, it's about zombies so it's probably not getting an Oscar anyway, but it's such an ensemble piece that there's no real room for one person to go ape shit on dialogue. It was written to be fun, not overly thought-provoking, although it does have its share of deeper meaning.

But tonight as I was thinking about my new project and a particular scene between the two major characters and I started acting it out. I used to do that all the time; I bought a pair of guns at the dollar store once so I could have props to run around the apartment with as I was writing scenes. It's one of the reasons I live alone.

The scene calls for a driver's license and a weapon. I grabbed a big old kitchen knife but that felt wrong. So I grabbed my cane from when my foot was injured and waved it around. And that's when I realized this character had the cane because she was injured earlier in a scene I already wrote. Instantly more interesting.

So I was holding up the cane and my driver's license and yelling at an empty corner of my apartment - you know, the way you do when you're batshit crazy - and I realized this has the potential to be one of those moments. I'm not egotistical enough to suggest that my script will win an Oscar or anything because that would be ridiculous. But I do see where those moments come from. It was there. I was standing there in my living room freaking out the cat and realizing that I know how to write a moment that an actor would kill to play.

Of course the danger here is that I try too hard and end up overdoing it. Nobody likes a preachy monologue. But maybe if I'm swinging around a cane and yelling a lot it will be cooler.

So in theory my script is awesome. We'll see how well I pull that off in reality.


  1. Anonymous3:18 PM

    Writing is teh awesome.

  2. Even the more popular, genre-type films need (and have) those scenes, though they don't have to be dialogue driven -- you need something to show when the actor shows up on Letterman and Leno. Not Dead Yet has those scenes, even if they aren't dialogue scenes.

  3. I always am truly surprised at the reaction I get when I tell people that I consciously try to make sure every noteworthy character has at least one asskicking scene they can claim for use on the talk show circuit-- the Leno/Letterman clip, as you refer to it.

    It seems so obvious-- for a script to become a movie, someone ELSE has to become excited by that pile of words AFTER the screenwriter has done his little keyboard dance. Actors seem to fall into the category of "people it might be useful to win to your side." If I (you) can give each role a scene they are EXCITED about playing, that surely seems to strengthen your casue come time to find willing outspoken fans and supporters.

    Or perhaps I'm just nuts..


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