Is It Possible to Make a Car Scene Interesting?

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  • Is It Possible to Make a Car Scene Interesting?

    My story begins with a family on a road trip. I need(?) for it to start in the car so that I can supply some exposition and to have the car break down in the next few scenes so that they are stranded in a town where the real story begins. I guess I could start it right when the car breaks down but then it doesn't give me much time for exposition.

    So the question is, how can I make those initial scenes in the car interesting? And yes, I looked at scripts with car scenes like Little Miss Sunshine, Dirty Dancing - Havana Nights, etc. but wanted to get the opinion of the people here.

    Thanks.


  • #2
    Not trying to be unhelpful, but how do you make any scene interesting? Conflict and good dialogue. Outlandish events. Maybe something happens that throws off your characters' equilibrium.

    Or perhaps you don't really NEED to start with the expositional car scenes, but you're struggling to come up with a better idea at the moment.

    I recommend trying to start your script off with a bang somehow with some interesting dramatic action or visuals. I never really bother with exposition in the early pages. I jump right into the action with something attention grabbing and allow the audience to catch up.

    An expositional scene with characters talking in a car maybe be the most direct option to open your script, but I kind of doubt that it's going to be your best option.

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    • #3
      One of my favorite film, Jeepers Creepers, has some real nifty brother-sister dialogue. Breakdown is another script which I found interesting.

      Otherwise, what Prezzy said.

      -- fallen.

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      • #4
        ... but you're struggling to come up with a better idea at the moment.
        Prezzy, you are absolutely right, I am stuck on these opening scenes. i've spent so much time on just these few scenes that my brain has about had it.

        p.s. I hope I pasted the quote notation correctly on top... after all this time, I still seem to have trouble with this.
        Last edited by Done Deal Pro; 02-24-2021, 05:46 AM. Reason: Fixed quote code

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        • #5
          I think my suggestion without knowing what the script is about would be to start elsewhere with something interesting happening that might become relevant to the story later, then cut to the family looking under the hood on the side of the road.

          I think the car conversation would likely be a somewhat tedious waste of page count with information that you could slip into other scenes as you go.

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          • #6
            Tommy Boy.
            Goodfellas.
            Vacation.
            Pulp Fiction.
            Ladybird.
            The Blues Brothers.
            Planes, Trains, & Automobiles

            So YES.
            Last edited by Bono; 02-22-2021, 05:59 PM.

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            • #7
              I have a road-trip script where two half-sisters, who met for the first time at their father's funeral, with a number of in-the-car scenes. However, the first in-the-car scene is at the act 2 break. Like you, I also needed that first in-car scene to fill in some exposition/backstory on the "surprise" sister who appeared out of no where. To keep it interesting, I had the "surprise sister" insist on bringing her four dogs (because she didn't trust her boyfriend to care for them).

              So their dialogue unfolded in-between doggie antics in the car that also helped contrast the sisters' different personalities. The point of sharing my long story is perhaps you can put some crazy pets in the car? Or maybe one of the kids surreptitiously slipped his/her pet into the car because they didn't trust the pet sitter? It could create a way to "hide" exposition while revealing character. Hope this helps.
              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.-

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              • #8
                Prezzy, Bono (I've forgotten about those movies, yikes, thanks,), sc111 (you always come up with good stuff) -- much appreciation to you guys... I feel like I'm getting a second wind now!

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                • #9
                  Just tell a joke about how Europe uses the metric system and the US does not. It worked for Tarantino.

                  You have to make the scene about something - not the exposition. I'm picturing Vacation where they are in the car in a family road trip and the story uses those moments to make jokes. Like when it's late and finally quiet in the car and they pan to each character who is fast asleep and then they pan to Clark and he is asleep too. I always laugh at that scene. Or When they are lost and Clark drives off a cliff or they have the Christie Brinkly interactions in the car.

                  Be very careful with talking heads spewing exposition as the first scene a judge, or a manager, or an agent will read.

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                  • #10
                    Something in the dialogue and/or physical actions needs to cause some tension. Texting, eating, putting on make-up, farting, changing clothes, fighting, traffic, extreme weather etc., are just a few examples of physical things to make the chit-chat more interesting. Also, does the audience need to know as much about the backstory at this point as you think they do?

                    Locke (2013) isn't a masterpiece, but it is watchable. 90% of the film is one guy driving alone in his car at night. It is what is called "contained" in that there are very few complications in it's filming. The guy is on the phone to various other characters throughout the film juggling his personal problems and work problems. It develops enough tension to propel the story without a single physical action.

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                    • #11
                      Some additional thoughts...

                      In addition to films already mentioned in previous posts, two great films with a lot of dialogue in cars are Midnight Run and Smokey and the Bandit.

                      Whatever your theme is going to be should be tied into the opening sequence... example: theme "stop and smell the roses" might have the family car seriously speeding in the opening.

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                      • #12
                        Don't forget road trips involve so much more than just being in the car. Stops for food and gas, motels, rest areas and bathroom breaks, interesting fellow motorists and roadside attractions...all are fair game to keep things active and interesting. But to echo what's been suggested by other posters, dialogue is your friend and can make the most mundane interesting if done well.

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                        • #13
                          What I didn’t express is that car scenes are not always boring by default and explosions are not always exciting. It’s how you write it. Any scene is all about execution. So many of my favorite scenes are set in cars or just two people sitting talking. Why is a car different than a kitchen table? That’s life. So it’s up to the writer to make every scene exciting and interesting. So just saying you’re looking at it wrong.

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                          • #14
                            It looks like I've been taking a too narrow view with a negative preconceived notion about car scenes. My eyes (and brain) are a little open now. Thanks guys.

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                            • #15
                              Scenery
                              I heard the starting gun


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