Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or What?



No announcement yet.
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or What?

    Characters gotta eat. Right? Why does Lew Hunter, et al
    say that bar scenes, coffee scenes, eating scenes - sitting
    down scenes boring to the audience? What about Casablanca,
    Tom Jones, Working Girl, on and on? How many sit down
    scenes in a script is too many before a reader trashes
    your wonderful screenplay?

  • #2
    Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

    You can have a whole movie that's nothing but two people eating and talking...if what they're saying is interesting. Look at "My Dinner with Andre." (Okay, it ain't everybody's cuppa tea, but it's critically acclaimed and I think it's good....)

    Look at "When Harry Met Sally." Virtually nothing but people talking -- what makes it work is that what they say is really witty, and it's loaded with subtext.

    Of course, if you're not Nora Ephron, you'll want to be careful. But talking heads are only talking heads when they bore us. And they generally do that by going on too long about nothing or by talking about exactly what the scene is about. (Basically, when they talk like real people. )


    • #3
      Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

      good will hunting with the exception of a few scenes was pretty much entirely people sitting around talking and it won best screenplay.


      • #4
        Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

        A "rule" is a general guideline. That's all. And that guideline is there, I think, to stop you from having your characters tell one another the story so that the viewer knows what's going on, rather than showing it in action. If a movie is about people interacting and conversing, then the "rule clearly doesn't apply.

        That's what I get out of it, anyway.



        • #5
          Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

          "twelve Angry Men", "Conspiracy" come to mind. Pure talking but it works.
          I think, the conversation is what really matters.


          • #6
            Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

            Dont forget the diner scene in"Pulp Fiction". An American classic.


            • #7
              Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

              There's an outstanding (and hilarious) dinner scene between Myrna Loy and Cary Grant (and a host of other unwelcome guests) in The Bachelor and the Bobby Soxer.

              Check it out.

              It has conversation and action all at the dinner.


              • #8
                Why NOT to use restaurant and office scenes

                The pro screenwriter who mentored my partner and me had us take all the unimaginative restaurant and office scenes out of our screenplay and set them someplace interesting to look at -- because movies are VISUAL.

                So we had one scene where a character goes to see another character to say, "We've got to talk to them. We've got to convince them to let us try again."

                So we took it out of her office and had him talk to her while she's on a centrifuge (She's an astronaut. Yes, she has an office, but there are also more interesting places to set the scene.)

                So now it's:

                We've got (VROOM!)

                To talk (VROOM!)

                To them!

                And then they finish the conversation walking down a hallway in which you can see into an underwater tank in which other astronauts are doing anti-gravity training. Our goofy sidekick character makes fish faces at them through the glass.

                Everybody, including our mentor, was absolutely convinced we made the lines more interesting. We didn't change the lines. Just the setting and the stage directions.


                • #9
                  Re: Why NOT to use restaurant and office scenes

                  In Joan's example I agree because those settings make sense given her plot and characters.

                  However, if we're talking two people on a date (who are not astronauts) then it may be necessary for them to have dinner.

                  Make it interesting. Maybe it's in a themed restaurant. Or something funny or sad happens while they're at the restaurant. Or one of them chokes. Or the place gets robbed. Or maybe she's allergic to his escargot ... or he accidentally sets her hair on fire... or whatever. Just remember to avoid purely talking heads.

                  Just my thoughts.


                  • #10
                    Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

                    Any scene can be a script killer. Youcan have a scene where the president is assassinated that is a script killer if it's written the right way and you can have a scene at an outdoor cafe that is the best scene in the script. It depends, on the story, context, and dialogue. A scene setting like a restaurant or two characters eating together doesn't have to be a script killer. Before I write each scene, I ask myself, "Okay, what is the purpose of this scene?" And I make damn sure I nail that purpose home in the dialogue, action, and description.


                    • #11
                      Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

                      Check out this review on American Loser:


                      May be the guy's stepdaddy, but the review made me wanna read the script.


                      • #12
                        Visual Information

                        Movie move. Stage plays are about people sitting around talking, movie are about people doing something.

                        Joan's example is great - she took a static scene and made it interesting to watch - and gave us visual information about the characters (fish faces!).

                        Over 70% of the average film's income is from overseas - non English speaking territories. Some of these places have so many dialects they don't subtitle or dub - they have an in-theater translator yelling at the audience. Talk about having lines get lost in translation!

                        That audience gets all of their information from the visual part of the movie - the part that MOVES.

                        If you can read the ACTIONS in your script - skipping the dialogue - and understand the CHARACTERS and the STORY your script isn't going to work for 70% of the audience... and a producer will see 70% of his profits going down the drain.

                        MY DINNER WITH ANDRE - produced & directed & "written" by the same guy. Same with PULP FICTION and most of the other recent films noted. TWELVE ANGRY MEN was a play put on screen - if you write a hit play, you can have it all be talking heads, too.

                        Yes - there are time when you'll have conversations - but why do they need to be sitting down? Why not skip the dinner portion of the date and cut straight to the post-dinner walk in a park or a carraige ride or a bike-rockshaw ride or have the date be at some cool location like the San Francisco Exploratorium (interactive science exhibits)? That way you balance the talk with some interesting background action... and like Joan showed us, you can find cool ways in show character or emphasize dialogue using that location.

                        PS- I'd suggest finding a location that matches the conversation - the betrayal scene in LADY FROM SHANGHAI takes place during a walk through Steinhart Aquarium in San Fran... in front of the shark tanks! The choice of location gives the audience visual information about the scene, even if they speak Cantonese.

                        Movies are about people DOING things. Talking about doing things is getting the information second hand - the audience doesn't experience anything. We didn't SEE things happen, we just hear about them. I'd rather be right there and witness what happened. Actions speak louder than words.

                        - Bill


                        • #13
                          Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

                          I have to echo some of the previous replies -- it depends on the scene and how well it's written. Conversations can take place anywhere, but in restaurant/bar scenes there's nothing at all wrong with a back and forth dialogue passage.

                          The thing is to make the dialogue expository -- reveal things about the characters through what they say, provide information that moves the story forward and is engaging. Think of a film like GLENGARRY GLENN ROSS. Though it was based on David Mamet's play and it takes place at just a handful of locations, it's a damn good film -- and it's all dialogue. An older film like HIS GIRL FRIDAY is a similar case.

                          For me, great "Sit Down Scenes" are:
                          The many in PULP FICTION;

                          The DeNiro/Pacino cup of coffee scene in HEAT;

                          The coffee shop scene early on in BOOGIE NIGHTS where Burt Reynolds talks about the porn industry and seduces Mark Wahlberg's character into wanting to work for him;

                          The scene in CHINATOWN between Jack Nicholson and John Huston where they eat and discuss the case -- "Just find the girl.";

                          The one in Woody Allen's HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, where the three sisters go from talking to arguing, with lots of subtext, and the camera begins a 360 around the table;

                          The one in FIVE EASY PIECES where Jack Nicholson argues with the waitress, trying to get his order the way he wants it...

                          Those are good examples. Who the hell is Lew Hunter anyway?


                          • #14
                            Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

                            I think it's silly for a screenwriter to not write a scene in a restaurant because he/she has to worry that 70% of the box office will be foreign.

                            I am a staunch believer in writing "cinematically." But I also believe a movie is organic and deserves the balance of quiet moments as well as the loud razz-a-matazz scenes. Where I come from, they call it "pacing." A good writer MAKES a sit-down scene interesting. Never has an agent or a producer said to me, "Your characters sit down too much." You do what is best for the stories and characters.


                            • #15
                              Re: Sit Down Scenes (eating, drinking). Script Killers Or Wh

                              Michael Corleone sits down with Sollozzo and McCluskey for a nice meal and conversation.

                              That scene did not slow "The Godfather" down.

                              I guess each scene is as interesting or important as you make it irregardless of location.