Click here for Done Deal Pro home page

Done Deal Pro Home Page

Loading

Go Back   Done Deal Pro Forums > About the Craft > Screenwriting
Register FAQ Members List Calendar Search Today's Posts Mark Forums Read

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 08-20-2014, 02:07 PM   #1
Manchester
Member
 
Manchester's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 2,243
Default 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

I've seen TV ads for Pierce Brosnan's upcoming "The November Man", and the dialogue sounded incredibly recycled. IIRC, one of them is, "He'll come at us with everything he's got." And more. As I watched the ad, I pondered if this very same ad could be offered as a parody ad.

Yet, not only did someone write that trite dialogue in a script, but the marketers think that THAT is what's going to grab people to come see this movie. The marketers apparently believe a good number of people hear that and say to themselves, "Wow! I so want to see another 'He'll come at us with everything he's got' movie. Let's get tickets!"

The guys who wrote the screenplay, Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, are both accomplished writers. (Note: I've not read the script; the other 99% of the dialogue may be totally unlike what's in the ad.)

Of course, maybe what sounds trite to my ears isn't trite. But if it is, how to explain those lines in a big-budget movie - and spotlighting them in the ads?

Does it mean that, if we have a kick-ass story, then it's OK to have that sort of dialogue? Does it even mean, if we have a kick-ass story, that we should include that sort of dialogue? Or... does it mean nothing at all to us spec writers?
Manchester is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 02:55 PM   #2
Ronaldinho
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 2,288
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchester View Post
Of course, maybe what sounds trite to my ears isn't trite. But if it is, how to explain those lines in a big-budget movie - and spotlighting them in the ads?

Does it mean that, if we have a kick-ass story, then it's OK to have that sort of dialogue? Does it even mean, if we have a kick-ass story, that we should include that sort of dialogue? Or... does it mean nothing at all to us spec writers?
Couple of random thoughts.

You are, as I think you're aware, committing both the sin of judging a movie by its trailer and judging a script by the movie.

That being said, yeah, that trailer seems incredibly generic, and it's not just the dialog. A huge amount of that dialog does feel like its been ripped out of context to give me the major plot points. Heck, some of it may even be dialog that didn't make the final cut, or was looped afterwards for the trailer, or was stuck in the script because they were planning the trailer.

But here's my thinking. All IMO:

Your job is to write a spec that people love. Every spec your make needs to be an argument for why movies should be like your spec. (As Godard said, the best way to criticize a movie is to make another movie). The only way to do that is to write the version of that script that you are dying to see, the film that you would go see on opening night.

That script was adapted from a novel, so some of that dialog may be original to the novel. Or it may be a result of a development process whereby execs who had read the script half a dozen times started skimming and felt it was unclear, so demanded that stuff be clearer. Maybe the star said, "I really want to say a tough-guy line like ..." Or maybe they had better dialog and, two days before shooting, somebody told the writer "this scene is running too long, let's just give him one line and get out." (I know Michael Bay gives his writers instructions like that fairly often - "don't waste any time at all explaining. Give me the bare minimum, and move to the next scene.")

Or maybe the line wasn't written by a writer at all. It was improv'd on set. Or the director tweaked it (maybe even with a good motivation - the scene was running too long).

In my experience, you do want things to be extremely clear at the script stage. That sometimes requires lines of dialog that feel obvious, especially divorced from context.

But your goal is to get people to fall in love with it.

If you love that kind of movie, and you love that kind of line, put it in. If you love that kind of movie, and hate that kind of line, come up with something better. If you don't love that kind of movie, write something else.
Ronaldinho is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 02:55 PM   #3
JoeBanks
Member
 
Join Date: May 2006
Posts: 1,870
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

on the other hand, it will probably be a snap to translate into Chinese and Russian
JoeBanks is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 03:40 PM   #4
sc111
Member
 
sc111's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2005
Posts: 7,321
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchester View Post
I've seen TV ads for Pierce Brosnan's upcoming "The November Man", and the dialogue sounded incredibly recycled. IIRC, one of them is, "He'll come at us with everything he's got." And more. As I watched the ad, I pondered if this very same ad could be offered as a parody ad.

Yet, not only did someone write that trite dialogue in a script, but the marketers think that THAT is what's going to grab people to come see this movie. The marketers apparently believe a good number of people hear that and say to themselves, "Wow! I so want to see another 'He'll come at us with everything he's got' movie. Let's get tickets!"

The guys who wrote the screenplay, Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, are both accomplished writers. (Note: I've not read the script; the other 99% of the dialogue may be totally unlike what's in the ad.)

Of course, maybe what sounds trite to my ears isn't trite. But if it is, how to explain those lines in a big-budget movie - and spotlighting them in the ads?

Does it mean that, if we have a kick-ass story, then it's OK to have that sort of dialogue? Does it even mean, if we have a kick-ass story, that we should include that sort of dialogue? Or... does it mean nothing at all to us spec writers?
I saw the trailer a couple of times and I did chuckle to myself about the familiarity of the line. It does stand out isolated like that in a promo. However, I also know, in the context of the scene, while watching the movie, it may well be a perfect line.

Let's say the character is referencing a commander of a huge military, 100-thousand strong. Saying, 'He'll come at us with everything he's got,' could be the perfect line drenched in subtext and creating a vivid image of the upcoming fight.

Or, let's say he was referencing a terrorist leader with hidden cels and sleeper operatives imbedded everywhere, now the line creates the image of a different kind of battle.

Without context, we can't claim foul. So I vote for giving the writers the benefit of the doubt.

Besides -- when thinking of another way to make that point, just about any alternate phrase I came up with sounded just as tritely wonky.

How would you rewrite that line.
__________________
Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. “Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.”
sc111 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 03:54 PM   #5
bjamin
Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Location: Austin, Tx
Posts: 977
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

"Trust me. This guy -- he's a real dick."
bjamin is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 04:16 PM   #6
Manchester
Member
 
Manchester's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 2,243
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

"He's a bad mother-- Shut your mouth. Shaft. Right on. Can you dig it?"
____

My sense is: The line in the ad is a reference to Brosnan's character, by himself.

It's not that I am objecting to the line. But when I hear a line of that sort, I then can actually hear in my head a Scriptnotes review of a 3-page challenge. Craig says, "Yeh, look, we've seen that before", then they both chuckle.

I am not blaming the writers or anyone. In fact, I think I'm one of the few people around here who doesn't take immediate writers'-offense if a script has a character saying, "I don't think we're in Kansas anymore."

Rather, I'm just trying to see if there's some lesson here for me, as a wannabe/spec writer.

And sc111, as you say, how else would "you" write it?

Maybe that is the center of my concern: Let's say my scene needs that expressed. I would be disinclined to write that very line because - it's that very line. Even though it does the job, bam, done. OTOH, as Ronaldinho wrote, "If you love that kind of movie, and you love that kind of line, put it in."

And then there's the answer that, seems to me, increasingly is THE answer to many of these things: If you put that "trite" line in your script and you get a note on it, the real note may be that your script isn't working.
Manchester is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 05:22 PM   #7
Ronaldinho
Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2010
Posts: 2,288
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchester View Post

Maybe that is the center of my concern: Let's say my scene needs that expressed. I would be disinclined to write that very line because - it's that very line.
I think if you try, if you look hard enough, you can usually find a way to do something like that in a new way.

And if you can't, okay. A man's reach should exceed his grasp, etc etc. At least you tried. We all try to knock every scene out of the park and some of them we foul off, and some of them, quite frankly, just don't work.

But you have to try.
Ronaldinho is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-20-2014, 05:30 PM   #8
wcmartell
Member
 
wcmartell's Avatar
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: studio city
Posts: 5,940
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

Door #3: Lines written specifically for the trailer. Completely OTN lines that sum up a situation shot for the trailer when a more complex exchange occurs in the film.

Bill
__________________
Free Script Tips:
http://www.scriptsecrets.net
wcmartell is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2014, 01:36 AM   #9
nmstevens
Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 848
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

Quote:
Originally Posted by Manchester View Post
I've seen TV ads for Pierce Brosnan's upcoming "The November Man", and the dialogue sounded incredibly recycled. IIRC, one of them is, "He'll come at us with everything he's got." And more. As I watched the ad, I pondered if this very same ad could be offered as a parody ad.

Yet, not only did someone write that trite dialogue in a script, but the marketers think that THAT is what's going to grab people to come see this movie. The marketers apparently believe a good number of people hear that and say to themselves, "Wow! I so want to see another 'He'll come at us with everything he's got' movie. Let's get tickets!"

The guys who wrote the screenplay, Michael Finch and Karl Gajdusek, are both accomplished writers. (Note: I've not read the script; the other 99% of the dialogue may be totally unlike what's in the ad.)

Of course, maybe what sounds trite to my ears isn't trite. But if it is, how to explain those lines in a big-budget movie - and spotlighting them in the ads?

Does it mean that, if we have a kick-ass story, then it's OK to have that sort of dialogue? Does it even mean, if we have a kick-ass story, that we should include that sort of dialogue? Or... does it mean nothing at all to us spec writers?
The point is (and I'm not saying that it was done in this particular case) there are ways that you can take a familiar line and use it in a way that takes advantage of our familiarity.

So you can have someone saying that line (just in the course of the trailer).

"'He'll come at us with everything he's got."

Another character say, "He's an old man. How much has he got?"

Then you cut to the guy driving a train through the side of a building or some other appropriately large scale money shot.

So -- obvious line, a response that plays on the line, and then a visual punchline -- and it's the punchline -- which is basically the whole idea of this movie (and the whole idea of a whole bunch of other recent movies) which is the retired over-the-hill spy/assassin who's much smarter, tougher, deadlier than whoever the younger generation that's replacing him is.

Of course, they don't do it, but the point is, there are ways of using familiar lines, familiar tropes, familiar movie beats, in a way that's take advantage of our familiarity with the lines and the situations.

NMS
nmstevens is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 08-23-2014, 05:33 AM   #10
goldmund
Member
 
goldmund's Avatar
 
Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 851
Default Re: 'Don't write dialogue we've all heard before' vs The November Man

There's McDonald's and then there's molecular cuisine. Much like people who don't grab their Big Mac to broaden their culinary horizons but get more of what they know, I don't watch action flicks to ponder their originality -- much like our ancestors gathered round the fire wanted to hear for the thousandth time how Beowulf offed Grendel, not to be surprised by a postmodern class conscious variation on the myth. There's pleasure of familiarity and pleasure of new experience and I believe both have their rightful place in the art of storytelling.
goldmund is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply


Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

vB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump


All times are GMT -6. The time now is 03:05 AM.


Powered by vBulletin Version 3.6.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.
Done Deal Pro

eXTReMe Tracker