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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

A little screenwriting

One problem I wrestled with in this script that I haven’t worked on in five days was the depiction of the passage of time.

In my treatment, I have one paragraph ending with “In his apartment, he writes. And writes. And writes. And drinks.”

The next paragraph in its entirety is: “Tom tries to sell plays (in a montage) and gets nowhere. Every contact has a reason his writing doesn’t work for them.”

A kudo to moi for recognizing that that second bit is a montage, but take that kudo away for failing to recognize that the first bit is also a montage, or should be one.

Two montages in a row just isn’t going to cut it. Yet these scenes only exist to point out how hard and how futilely Tom works on plays. My solution? To intercut the two montages, which become greater than the sum of their parts.

  • INT. HOTEL ALBERT ROOM - NIGHT
  • The cell-like room contains only the bare necessities. A wooden crate sits half-filled with notebooks and stacks of paper. Tom takes a slug from his hip flask. He lights a cigarette and dangles it in his lips as he grabs a notebook.
  • He flips to the middle of the notebook and starts reading. He paces wildly and gesticulates in silence.
  • After another drink, he sits at a table. He removes a safety pen from his pocket and starts writing in the notebook.
  • INT. THEATER OFFICE #1 - DAY
  • A middle-aged REDHEADED WOMAN behind a desk speaks to Tom.
  • REDHEAD
  • Come back next week, next week. Our reader hasn't had a chance at your play yet.
  • INT. HOTEL ALBERT ROOM - NIGHT
  • Tom scribbles furiously, pausing only to suck shots from his hip flask.
  • INT. THEATER OFFICE #2 - DAY
  • A bookish play PRODUCER, essentially a grown up version of Abrams, lectures Tom.
  • PRODUCER
  • I do like it, I do. Although it needs some revision. Not rewriting, mind you, just revising, to tighten the threads that run through each scene. And can you cut the cast in half? We are not made of money, you know.
  • Tom sighs and shakes his head - he's heard that before.
  • INT. HOTEL ALBERT ROOM - NIGHT
  • Tom writes and finishes a notebook. He slaps it on a pile of six other notebooks, grabs a fresh one, and keeps writing.
  • INT. THEATER OFFICE #1 - DAY
  • The redhead again speaks with Tom.
  • REDHEAD
  • How about next week?
  • INT. HOTEL ALBERT ROOM - NIGHT
  • Tom pauses writing to take a drink - but his flask is empty. He lays his pen down and heads for the door.
  • INT. THEATER STAGE - DAY
  • The 1920s' version of a HIPPY consoles Tom. ACTORS mill about in the background.
  • HIPPY
  • It's very good. But it just doesn't fit in with our program now.
  • EXT. MANHATTAN STREETS - NIGHT
  • Tom stalks the streets. He heads into a speakeasy that operates quite openly.
  • INT. THEATER OFFICE #3 - DAY
  • The businessman in charge here talks to Tom.
  • BUSINESSMAN
  • Perhaps you were a little too prejudiced in scene fourteen for our audience, but then again perhaps you weren't.
  • INT. HOTEL ALBERT ROOM - NIGHT
  • Tom writes more. He takes a slug of whisky, smiles to himself, and writes twice as quickly. The room is filled with notebooks.
  • INT. THEATER OFFICE #1 - DAY
  • The redhead again. And Tom.
  • TOM
  • Madame, time presses. I'm off to England come September.
  • REDHEAD
  • You realize that in the theater biz speed means six months?
  • TOM
  • Then perhaps your reader ought to return my manuscript.
  • The redhead thinks a moment and remembers something. She goes to a bookshelf filled with books and manuscripts and pulls a manuscript off the bottom shelf. She blows a heavy coating of dust off it and hands it to Tom.


Works nicely, don’t you think?

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