Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Script Response.

I read the script not one time, not two times, not four times, but three times; and then I spent longer than I expected thinking about and preparing this response. I lost a reading day but it was totally worth it. This is my response, in its own post because it sometimes wanders into more general topics:

I try to avoid banter with my dialogue. This is my personal preference. For example, I first noticed it here:

CHARLIE
When I get paid, you get paid.

DMITRI
You got paid last week.

That's tough. As a writer that's tough. You want that zing, but you do it at the expense of naturalism. It feels like as a writer you saved it for a punchline, when that information would either be at the beginning of a real conversation, or it would surprise Dmitri. Or it's a ritual between them. But as it is it's banter. Do you know what I mean?

What follows is more banter, and I think Dmitri becomes Charming Foreigner. It's transparent in your writing, knowing you, when you're writing from inspiration and when you're moving your characters forward. I don't know what it's like to read this and not know you. I don't know how knowing you tints my perception.

It sometimes works as a portal into the lives of these three characters, and when it does (and it seems to me that's what you're wanting) it's awesome. I love Charlie's window tinting obsession. I love the beginning of the script. I basically love what's happening and what your intentions are. I think you have nice characters, but they develop like they're in a skit. That's what's nice about the window tinting jokes: they break up what would otherwise be motif cycles. The jokes connect us to the beginning in a surprising way, and this to me is much more engaging than the running topic of payment.

I think that, like in editing, a good idea would be to take out everything you aren't 100% loving and re-write the scene. Leave only what you love. Just so you can see another way it could play, you know, and you may find that your structure was already perfect, but you can explore new possibilities with your characters by doing this. Eliminate what you've already tried and open your characters into new territory. That's a writing technique I use, it may or may not work for you.

As for the Charming Foreigner - my experience is that people who have the gumption, the drive, and the courage to move to a foreign country aren't like this. They're not exclusively one thing. Not that they can't be charming, but they also have an edge somewhere. Most travelers have an edge. They're usually shrewd, sharp motherfuckers. Think about how they would have to be in order to move alone like that. Dmitri is a moron. You should end the script with him drowning by rain. I had a friend in OC, Arturo, wife and son still back home in Russia, who was a crafty businessman that sold cigarettes, duplicated cell phone numbers, and committed manslaughter. That's an extreme case, and another type of cliche, but the guy was a character, he was a person with roots and dimensions. You assign Dmitri characteristics, but you don't let them shape his personality. Who was he in Russia? He was a bike rider, okay, why can't he use a broom? I don't know a bike rider who can't use a broom. Maybe he's the one who can't, fine, but what in the script points to a possible reason? Are you simply using the line to express Charlie's mentality?

Don't let the lines lead you, let the characters. Know your characters and let them surprise you. Oddly enough I'm reading a Russian novel, Anna Karenina (it's pretty obscure), right now, and there's a terrific segment from the introduction, which I'll type after the colon, because I think I'm unintentionally paraphrasing it right now:

"His own conflicting judgments leave room for his characters to surprise him, lending them a sense of unresolved, uncalculated possibility. Pushkin, speaking of the heroine of his Evgeny Onegin, once said to Princess Meshchersky, 'Imagine what happened to my Tatiana? She up and rejected Onegin..I never expected it of her!'"

2 comments:

Christina Gubalalalala said...

S, you make me laugh.

I promise to read your script soon, Joseph.

joe said...

Thanks for the comments. All taken to heart and agreed with. I'll call you tomorrow and actually, you know, talk in a voice to voice kind of manner.