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Home » Archives » May 2008 » Superstar
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05/27/2008: Superstar

Friend-of-the-Blog Danny Strong wrote the movie RECOUNT that premiered on HBO this weekend. Did you miss it? That's okay, I suspect HBO will implement some sort of scheme in which they rerun it a couple times. Don't miss it next time, though, because it's fantastic.

I read every draft of Danny's script, and yet I have no memory of giving help of any kind. All I recall saying is, "Wow. This is really good."

I recommend looking at the movie as an excellent example of how to handle exposition. Danny is telling the story of the 2000 Presidential Election Florida recount. He had lots and lots of very technical material to deliver to the audience. And never once does he just shove a chunk of it at the viewers, hoping to get past it as quickly as possible. It's usually delivered by one character explaining something to another character who genuinely doesn't have the information, and there is always an attitude behind either the giving or the getting of the information, usually both. Incredulity, amusement, shock, anger, even blank incomprehension -- these attitudes make expositional moments into character moments.

Notice also his use of intercutting. He frequently cuts between the Democratic and Republican camps discussing the same point of law. The intercutting puts the emphasis on the different approaches to the problem and, again, makes the scenes about attitudes, not legal procedure.

He also found real-life obstacles for his characters. The guy who had to chase Gore down to prevent him from making a concession speech? He really did have a busted knee. The lawyer who argued the case before the Supreme Court? He really is dyslexic and has to work without notes. These are the kinds of character details -- one more little thing to overcome -- that you want to invent for characters that you make up, and Danny was smart enough to discover and exploit them (in a good way) for his script.

Writing scripts based on real events is incredibly difficult. There's no reason to think that the journey of a real hero actually will conform to the Hero's Journey, after all. If you're trying to shape real-life events into a satisfying script, you're not going to do better than this example.

Lunch: Cup O' Noodles


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