Saturday, March 19, 2005

Best Scripts?

Okay, all you writing and film people out there... I am trying to decide what scripts to make my screenwriting students buy as texts in the fall. I typically make them buy and read three scripts -- perferably, from the Newmarket series (these preserve the original shooting script format).

I used a three-script packaged series, featuring the scripts from The Shawshank Redemption, Adaptation, and American Beauty. While these are all good scripts, two of them are not so easily classified as having classic three-act structure. It's still there, in a way, but it's harder to teach it from those scripts. Fortunately, this semester I had some surprisingly sharp students who did some very solid analysis of those scripts in their structure assignment.

Nevertheless, I'd like to change it up and use different scripts this time.

Shawshank was pretty solid this semester, so I will likely stick with that one. I am thinking, from the Newmarket list, Truman Show might be another good one (I haven't really analyzed the structure, but I think it's pretty solid). So, any advice? Take a look at the Newmarket list and tell me what you think.

11 Comments:

At 6:47 PM, Anonymous chutry said...

Sideways and Huckabees might work well for illustrating 3-act structure. From what I can recall, Sideways, especially is pretty close to a standard 3-act structure.

 
At 9:51 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

I enjoyed Nurse Betty when I saw it. Even though it's not nearly as original a concept as Neil LaBute would probably like to think. (I saw the same exact plot on a rerun of Quantum Leap recently.)

I am a big fan of About a Boy, though. That's pretty three-act. Will has no connection to anyone... gains a connection to somebody, then rejects it... then decides he needs it after all... the character arc is pretty defined, for both the grown-up boy and the actual boy, and there's some real good emotional groundwork laid for all the characters. I guess it depends on what aspect of writing you want to teach, but I love that film and that script because you end up caring about most of the people in the film, and everyone's having personal revelations all over the place. Actual change occurs. And voiceover is used skillfully.

I don't think these are on your list, but here are some other scripts I love and have used in teaching classes as a volunteer:

A Simple Plan (another adaptation of a novel - but such a tight story, swiftly paced, with a lot of natural momentum... and also emotionally moving)

The Talented Mr. Ripley

School of Rock (very tightly constructed)

Good luck! I kind of envy your job, by the way.

 
At 8:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Agreed, About a Boy came to mind quickly - as did Eternal Sunshine...

Have you ever read the script for Smoke? A favorite - brilliant - well worth the read time for anyone with writers interest - though not a likely candidate for your assignment.

You have mentioned a helpful professor a few times ...

(I taught last semester primarily from a colleague's syllabus and notes, with a few of my own additions).

I'm glad you're finding your wings. It's work, yes. But I think you'll feel more at ease with your position - and its workload - when you've found the groove of your own material. You're making a class world of your own. I'm so glad for you.

Hope the headaches fall to the edit room floor...

 
At 11:20 AM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

Thanks for the tips. I've decided to go with Sideways, Shawshank, and About a Boy. I haven't seen Sideways because it was only here in this small town for a couple of weeks, and I just didn't have the time to see it. So I'm basing that choice on your comments and some stuff I read about it having a solid three-act structure. About a Boy I saw in the theater and really liked it. I don't remember it too well, but I think the structure is pretty solid there, too, so I'm not too worried about it.

Thanks for your help!

 
At 11:21 AM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

Oh -- and Anonymous -- yes, I am getting my sea legs, so to speak. Been making things my own a bit more this semester and feeling better about it. You're right, it's some work, but it's enjoyable and it makes me so much mroe comfortable in the classroom.

 
At 12:20 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

I'm also thinking about subbing one of the scripts I mentioned for The Truman Show. Can't decide...

 
At 12:40 PM, Blogger AiE said...

I may be muddying the water here, but I wonder what it says to your students about screenwriting/filmmaking when you choose 3 scripts that are written by and feature main characters that are, as far as I can tell, men?

I know that many film folks *hate* this critique, but I think professors have an obligation not to blindly reinforce the norms of their fields.

 
At 6:14 PM, Blogger Kristen said...

Yeah. That's a good point. On the other hand, if you have to choose from those particular scripts for sake of ease...

Were there any women writers on that list?

Erin Brockovich was written (primarily) by a woman. Thelma & Louise. A Walk on the Moon.

 
At 6:46 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

It is a good point, but as Kristen points out, the list I am working from is light on female writers, and I'm not going to pick one simply to have a female writer in the mix.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of Erin Brockovich because I think it's mostly a glorified TV movie. Thelma and Louise is a little dated for this particular audience...

 
At 6:48 PM, Blogger TerminalMFA said...

I meant to say -- I'm not going to pick a female writer's script just to have one in the mix if it's not on par with other scripts.

 
At 11:27 AM, Blogger AAP said...

Being John Malkovich is an excellent read. It has solid structure and the sub plots are all supportive thematically of the main plot.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home