November 19, 2009

Grosse Point Blank ***

*** Grosse Point Blank, Tom Jankiewicz, D.V. deVincentis , S.K. Boatman , John Cusack

I'm currently reading several giant books:

  • Songwriters on Songwriting - 752 pages
  • Wodehouse: A Life - 530 pages
  • Alphabet Juice - 384 pages
  • Benjamin Franklin: The Autobiography and Other Writings - only 270 pages, but small type and slow going

Which explains why I'm not ready to offer a review this week. However, I realized that the other reason is that I've been reading screenplays, which I have not reviewed. I can fix that.

My current project has a character that could be unsympathetic (a nurse who helps in assisted suicides) and I wanted some pointers in how to make a potentially unsympathetic character more sympathetic. To that end, I found a copy of the Grosse Point Blank screenplay online and rented the movie to watch it again as I read.

I read 30 pages or so, watched until I caught up to that point, paused to read more, watched more, etc. until I got through both the movie and the screenplay in one sitting.

In case you don't know, the movie is about a professional hit man who is having a career and identity crisis. One thing I learned right away is, if you want the character to be more sympathetic, cast John Cusak in the role.

As I read the dialog on the page of Martin Blank talking to his assistant while doing a hit, I had a much more hard-nosed tone in mind. But can you imagine Cusak delivering anything hard-nosed? Exactly.

The other thing they did was make the character more accessible by making him less foreign. What do you have in common with a professional killer? Not much, I hope. But how about a guy who is conflicted about attending his 10-year high school reunion? A lot more.

I applied this knowledge to my project by showing the emotional connection between the nurse and those she assists. Before, she was a little more business-like. I think the change is an improvement. We'll see what the critique group says next year when my time slot comes up.

The other interesting thing was to note the differences between the draft I read and what was on the screen. New material, deleted material, conversations moved to other scenes. Good stuff for evaluation.

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