“Where Did All The Good Screenplays Go?”
Guest Blog Post By: John W. Bosley
The Unsurpassed Top Five Screenplays - according to John W. Bosley:
Citizen Kane (1941)
Written by Herman Mankiewicz and Orson Welles; directed by Orson Welles. This film tells the story of a fictional media mogul, Charles Foster Kane. Considered one of the best films from cinema history, Citizen Kane uses a series of flashbacks piecing together Kane’s personal life as the reporter, Jerry Thompson, discovers them. The film creates a story that draws the audience in as they see the development of Kane’s character; how he rises to success, and then how his life falls apart around him. The story is a full circle starting with Kane’s last words, “Rosebud,” (This word prompts the reporter’s investigation.) and ending with the knowledge of what “Rosebud” means. This full circle is made up of a series of circles, showing the development of Kane’s character. None of the lines or scenes in the film are wasted; they all drive the plot forward toward a conclusion. The script has many levels in which the audience can still find relevance, such as: emotional, moral, business, political and social.
Written by Joseph Stefano and based on the novel by Robert Bloch. Many people have focused on the directing done by Hitchcock, but have missed the screenplay that moved the story forward. The first act of the story is simple, yet draws the audience in. Marion Crane, in love with her long-distance boyfriend, wants to be with him on the other side of the country and steals money from her boss to drive to him. The part of the script that impresses me the most, as a screenwriter, is that there are few characters with whom she talks as she is traveling, but there are different voices that she hears while driving. She continually worries about what others are saying about her and these voices build the tension of the story. When it rains, she pulls her car into Bate’s Motel which leads to her doom. The rest of the story continues to be driven by scenes with few characters, but dialogue that builds the tension and drama of the film. The screenplays of our modern era should study PSYCHO’s set-up and see how a screenwriter can draw an audience in without big explosions or large budgets.
The Planet of the Apes
Written by Michael Wilson and Rod Serling; it was loosely based on the novel by Pierre Boulle. The script was originally written by Rod Serling of the Twilight Zone TV show and Michael Wilson was brought in later on in the writing process to help develop a more primitive society within the script, which was more cost effective. After the spaceship, the story focuses on the three astronauts as they journey alone through the desert. There aren’t many discussions, but the landscape and weather provokes the audience to wonder what kind of world the men have landed on. There are no frivolous conversations to fill in time, but instead, the screenwriters take a risk and write the script simply to peak the audience’s interest. The screenwriters don’t take time to try to explain everything that is going on, but allows the audience to try to put together the pieces as it develops. The story makes a full circle back to the water, not far from where the spaceship crashed, Taylor (the main character) finds answers to many of the questions posed in the script. THE PLANET OF THE APES creates levels of relevance and it deals with science, politics, religion, race relations, war and the nuclear arms race without boring the audience with “telling” a point-of-view, but instead interweaving these concepts from within the script.
One of the things I want to point out about the script was that it created a unique element that teases the audience into wanting to know more about the “world” of THE PLANET OF THE APES. There is a scene, near the end of the film, where Cornelius, played by Roddy McDowall, and Taylor, played by Charlton Heston, are standing on opposite ends of a ravine looking down at a river. Taylor asks, “Where does this river lead?” Cornelius answers, “I don’t know” and then goes on to explain that no one had been down the river. The shot combined with the dialogue written in the script leads the audience to want to know more. “Where DOES the river lead?” “Is there another civilization somewhere beyond the river?”
Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Written and directed by George Lucas. First, STAR WARS EPISODE IV: A NEW HOPE is a unique story idea that doesn’t date itself, but was written to be relevant to all eras. One of the unique things that Lucas did in the first script was that he let pace of the script build as it developed. Each scene starts at a point where the action and/or dialogue is already in motion. For example: the film would jump mid-way into the action, establish what was happening, and then leave just before it ended. -This made the pace of the action-adventure sci-fi feel. Also, Lucas didn’t spend time trying to explain everything, but gave you just enough info to follow along. It all started with a simple problem: Princess Leia has been captured and she has the secret plans to defeat the Death Star (the bad guys). It finishes with her rescue and the Death Star being destroyed. The ending of the film was memorable, not because of any big explosion, but because Lucas had built up the tension by having all the important pieces come together then be resolved at what is termed as the Deumonte (untying the knot).
Written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan A simple film concept: family on farm starts to see signs, or designs, in fields and other mysterious “happenings.” SIGNS uses the simple family relationships, the loss of the main character’s wife, and the suspense-driven dialogue. M. Night doesn’t spend time explaining everything, but like Lucas, he gives just enough to keep the audience in tune with the story, but wanting more information. Like a puzzle, slowly coming together, pieces of what is needed for the finale are strategically placed. All theses pieces come together in one of the best and most recent finales to a film.
John W. Bosley is the writer/director who created “The Allan Carter Saga Part I: ‘amnesia’” or otherwise known as AMNESIA. You can find his work at: http://www.jbmovies.com/