View Full Version : dialog in the office / boardroom
07-03-2000, 12:18 AM
aw man, i have spent the better part of 20 years in offices, and too many of the last 10 or 12 in too many boardrooms but i am having trouble making this bit work
my protag walks into a boardroom, real late
his boss is pissed
the protag doesn't really care - he thinks he is secure in his job as he brings in beaucoup bucks to the firm
the two of them kinda have it out - not climactically: he won't get fired 'til somewhere in actII but this is like the fourth scene and is indirect foreshadowing (we know he is gonna be canned, eventually, and maybe he does too but hasn't really admitted it to himself yet)
so we are in the hightech and mahogany board room, hero and boss are bantering
problem i have is the action - it seems flat... he enters, the table is all but full, he gets a coffee, sits in the last empty chair, the boss starts hassling him, he fights back, then the boss really tears him a new one
boss talks, hero answers, boss talks, hero answers, boss slam his hand on the table and talks, hero pulls a file from his briefcase and slaps it on the table while he talks, the boss gets up to get a coffee while he talks, hero answers, boss sits down again, talking.. hero answers and slides the file down the table - boss looks at file, hero talks, hero gets up, picks up briefcase, talks again, walks to door, opens it, talks again
after all that, yep i have questions
Boss stands, makes his way to the coffee urn, pours himself a cup
talk talk talk
answer answer answer
BOSS OR Boss sits down
talks some more talks some more
........should i go action line or parenthetical here?
how boring is this?
any good online scripts you have seen and would recommend re board room crap like this?
should i just go with the dialog and not sweat the action here? it is a two page or so scene, btw
should i be saying "Boss returns to head of table and takes his seat" or would you assume that "Boss sits down" means he went back and did not just sit on the floor (or on the coffee machine?)
hope this is coherent - god knows my current copy of that scene doesn't feel like it... i intended to leave it and return later but it is bugging me and i want to clean it up a bit now just to get it out of my head space
07-03-2000, 12:48 AM
How does it read? I mean when you and a friend read it out loud? Does it feel right? How long does it take (min; sec)?
The nastiest boss I ever had hardly ever spoke. Right before he fired me, he called me into his office and said, "How's it going?" Then a security guard showed up with a box. In 15 minutes, I was out the door.
07-03-2000, 01:26 AM
Hard to say without reading your script, but my impression is that the scene may be going on a bit too long. Do like Ptero says and time it by reading it out loud. Unless the "information" in each of the verbal exchanges is vital to the story, you really only need to establish that there is a tension between the two men.
[sidebar to PteroDon] Sorry I left you out in the other thread. It was an oversight. Sent an e-mail. Your suggested line was a good one.
07-03-2000, 01:30 AM
well it doesn't really read anymore- i kinda ripped it into pieces that i need to add, change and reassemble
the boss/worker relationship isn't like you might be thinking - the hero is a bigbucks a day billable guy who gets the clients and brings in business - (like the movie star) - he is great at what he does, but has the ego and attitude to go with that... the boss runs it all and typically has to deal with the ego (like the director)
more of a love-hate symbiotic thing happening... if you recall my drug user story line, well this is part of it - the only reason the hero is eventually gonna get fired is his growing inability to cover his coke habit - even tho the work is still flowing and the money is still coming in he is going to become an embarassment
dialog wise, what i had before reads okay - i know i need to break up dialog with patches of action so it stays interesting... just struggling with what that action should/could be
07-03-2000, 01:34 AM
well, the scene is two pages - i wouln't have thot that too long... to me the dialog is pretty much cut to what it should be
and it is a primary character development scene, establishing who the hero is, what he does, how well he does it and is kinda pivotal in terms of introducing his attitude
07-03-2000, 02:35 AM
Actually, two pages of dialog probably is not too long. I was judging by the number of exchanges you were indicating, which seemed like a lot. As far as the action in between goes, I would say keep the direction to a minimum. Keep in mind my experience is limited, I'm repeating what I've learned in writing classes and from the screenwritng books I've read. Concensus lately seems to indicate that directors/producers only want minimal scene direction from the writer, so saying something like "He returns to his seat" is probably enough. I'm sure someone with a better grasp on the biz than I will chime in and give you more input.
07-03-2000, 02:40 AM
Well, you are saying the dialogue is blah blah blah. That pretty much sums up how important the dialogue is to you. It is already clear what's happening, the guy shows late, the boss is pissed, it doesn't matter, the hero is that good. So you have two pages of dialogue to show that, but really, only one thing is necessary to show that. Your character flips a file down the long long table, it's THE file, it's his ace, he's done.
The end. No two pages. No nothing. It's over. He won. Reaction. He walks out.
That is my take, anyway. I could be wrong.
07-03-2000, 03:26 AM
i'll try looking at it that way... like i said to bill i want to define his character, attitude and ego-wise in this early scene
paring it down as you say does get the point across - maybe i'll chop a bunch and leave a few salient points to set up the ego that later is his downfall work-wise
the blah blah blah part is because i don't like to give too much not because it doesn't mean too much - and because the script is at home and i am just doing my usual middle-east slacking at the office ;-)
07-03-2000, 09:00 PM
You might have something else going on before he enters. Like a junior guy is making his big presentation to the board. This is his moment. And then the hero walks in and starts fighting with the boss and he's trying to keep going but he's dying because the boss isn't paying attention. If you finesse it right, the hero and boss could just shoot minimal lines back and forth under the poor geek's dialougue -- basically play it out in subtext.
this is just off the top of my head but:
geek: And so our net billing is up 20% last quarter and --
Hero: 20% huh? Someone must be making this firm a lot of money.
07-05-2000, 01:47 AM
Do it her way.
He enters, obviously late. Boss is pissed, maybe says something to belittle the guy in front of everyone. Hero slides the file across the table. End of scene.
If the blah blah blah dialogue doesn't tell any more than what I've written in the above paragraph, why is it there? The hero is important to the firm, @#%$y, doesn't think the rules of showing up on time really apply to him, thinks he knows what motivates the boss (the file--the sales). The boss is a jerkweed who thinks his people should follow the rules AND produce, and figures there's probably someone out there who can replace the Hero (and there usually is).
Hero enters, obviously late. Nasty looks from his co-workers.
Boss: Says something insulting and domineering.
Hero slides file across the loooooong table as he imperiously takes his seat.
Or did you need to say something else about these characters that this scene doesn't say?
07-07-2000, 02:57 AM
steeves, this is my first post, but your subject interests me. first, if this boardroom is full of other folks besides the boss and protag, what are they doing? twiddling their thumbs? not likely. at least one of the 'others' will offer their two cents worth. it always happens. consider having one of the other roomies tell us something that's not critical to be said by the boss or protag. personally, i don't like a bunch of silent attendees in a scene.
07-07-2000, 06:36 AM
My experience has been when something like this occurs, the others (depending on the type of company) do any of the following:
1. whisper their asides to whoever is sitting next to them
2. take a break
3. interject something/join the fracus
4. twiddle their thumbs
5. watch like it's a movie (they can enjoy it, be embarassed, be scared,...)
Your scene is not that long and you have plenty there. I remember reading somewhere, that you don't have to put busywork (smoking, drinking, leafing through files,...) into a scene, that that's the director's decision.
07-07-2000, 10:28 AM
This may've already been said in another post...if it has, feel free to put me in my place...:rollin
I'm sure you're well aware of this... Take a look at each bit of dialogue in the scene...if everything moves the story line forward and adds to the tension of the scene, your a-ok. But, if it doesn't, cut it out. If the dialogue is interesting and carries the story, you shouldn't need to add a lot of dancing and prancing around the room...
Just chimin' in...
Steve, aka Noctivagus
07-07-2000, 07:33 PM
GIG's idea works well. I'd run with it with one twist:
Is this a setup scene, we're we supposed to get a hinto of the hero's impending dismissal? If so:
The hero enters, smugly taking his seat.
Steam pours from Boss's ears
Hero slides file down the table, @#%$sure grin on his face.
Boss slides the file before the hero's Chief Rival:
Boss to Rival: "Look this over".
It'll everyone's attitude, stance, and the Bossman's distrust in the hero. Changes are imminent. Hero ignores the sign, leading to his dismissal later.
from the above replies, it strikes me that this scene is fairly early in the story. Is that true? If not, then whereabouts in the script are we at this point? How much have we seen/experienced of the protag up til now? Can you sum up what we should know of him (and the boss) at this point for us? I think that would affect how the dialogue would be received.
07-08-2000, 10:50 PM
it is an early scene - the 4th, in fact, as i said above... and the first
the first two are in the present, followed by 95% of the rest of the script in the previous 4 weeks, followed by a couple of wrap up scenes back in the present
the 3rd scene (as in the one before the boardroom) is my hero playing poker with the boys and getting tanked - hence the late arrival at the office the next day
we know nothing of the boss - it is the first time we have seen him and likely will see him once more only, 40pages or so down the line, when he fires the hero's as.s
this scene is a character defining scene, attitude, ego and the basis for it, and a foreshadowing of work problems/job loss to come regardless of how valuable he is to the firm
so as brief as gig recommends doesn't work, tho i did get an idea from her (synapse fired!) as to how i could shorten it a little
so anyway, the simple question:
-------------question is here
in the 'action' parts of the scene, how best to detail the boss slamming hand on table, getting up to get a coffee, returning to his chair? should i say just that?
i know it is boring action, but i ask because it is a dialog intensive scene (tho still only a couple of pages long) and i am trying to follow the advice which dictates that long stretches of dialog be broken with action
-----------end of question
amazing how a bunch of writers that we are do not really read what has been written before answering the questions asked... i don't feel that writing the whole scene in my post is needed to get the feel of what i am talking about -
and i do appreciate the input and attempts at help - but no one has really answered the core question i have asked
07-09-2000, 06:49 AM
In terms of the action, just give the highlights--the important action points you want to portray. A lot of the on-screen action will be handled by the director and the actors.
In a scene such as this, you don't want your characters to play like the gopher game at Chuck-e-Cheez--you know, the one where the gophers pop up and down, in and out of their hole while you try to hit them with the padded club. Just let the dialog carry the scene, and when it's important to make a point with action, put it in.
For instance, when the boss's temper flares to the breaking point, write something like, "Boss stands and glowers at Character, almost nose to nose."
The only scene that I can think of off the top of my head that is even remotely similar is the scene in Top Gun where Maverick has to go see the Captain of the ship in his office. I'm sure someone else can think of a better example than this...
Hope this helps!
Steve, aka Noctivagus
07-09-2000, 09:17 AM
This isn't a boardroom scene, but -
the interogation scene from Basic Instinct might be a good one to look at. It doesn't have a lot of description or busy work action, but what it does have is meant to convey the personalities of the characters (eg she cooly blows smoke)...
Does the boss getting coffee convey anything or is it meant to keep him busy? If it's meant to just keep him busy then maybe something else that would convey his personality might be better (eg breaks pencils, snaps his fingers for someone else to get him coffee, rolls up his sleaves, paces,...)
07-09-2000, 09:51 AM
that was kinda my point - the action is irrelevant - but 1 1/2 to 2 pages of dialogue seems too much at once
but i want to break up the dialog with something - when i look at the opening scene of reservoir dogs it has some great dialog
btw i have a poker game scene with which i've a similar concern - i can easily include stuff like getting a beer, lighting a cigarette, etc just like the boss getting a coffee... but it seems flat, tho they are all things that happen in those situations
anyway, i'm gonna read some more from my library of scripts and see what i come up with there
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