SCRIPT TO SCREEN: The Scripts for the 2015 Oscar Best Screenplay Nominees

Dear Filmmaker,

Here's your homework:

  1. Pick one (1) script from the Oscar-nominated ones below and study it for structure, plot and character development and dialogue. 
  2. Then watch the movie produced out of it and pick 3 scenes that moved you. Review the scenes in the script and breakdown how the scene was directed. At every point, ask yourself, "Why* did the director do this?" Look for: 
    • What kind of shots were used? 
    • How were the shots composed/framed and lit? 
    • How were the shots edited together? 
    • What kind of transitions were used in between shots? 
    • What kind of sounds and music accompanied them, if any? 
    • How did the actors act and what aspects of the actor's performance did the director focus on? 
    • And how did the production's design (costume, setting, location, makeup, VFX, etc.) contribute to the overall effect?
  3. Extra credit: pick 3 scenes from any of the scripts below that did NOT move you and using the script only, determine how you would reshoot those scenes. 
    • What shots would you use?
    • How would you compose/frame and light the shot?
    • How would you edit the shots?
    • What kind of transitions would you use?
    • What kind of sounds and music would you use, if any?
    • How would you direct your actors and what kind of expressive choices would you want them to make?
    • What kind of production design would you want?


P.S. I realize that many of the scripts below are shooting scripts so that limits how much you can deviate with your interpretation of a scene from what you see on the screen. But remember (1) this is mainly an academic exercise to flex your directing muscles and (2) sometimes the smallest changes can have a huge impact for example the decision to extend a shot a couple seconds longer or to use a different piece of music can impact the emotions and meaning of what we see on the screen. 

P.S.S. Inherent Vice is a different kind of homework.

Best Original Screenplay Nominees for the 2015 Oscars
The Grand Budapest Hotel by Wes Anderson and Hugo Guinnes
Boyhood by Richard Linklater
Birdman by Alejandro González Iñárritu, Nicolás Giacobone, Alexander Dinelaris and Armando Bo
Foxcatcher by Dan Futterman and E. Max Frye
Nightcrawler by Dan Gilroy

Best Adapted Screenplay Nominees for the 2015 Oscars
Inherent Vice by Paul Thomas Anderson (could not find a screenplay to link to but I did link to chapter 1 of Pynchon's book - how would you adapt that first chapter into a script?)
Whiplash by Damien Chazelle
American Sniper by Jason Hall
The Imitation Game by Graham moore
The Theory of Everything by Anthony McCarten

These are the screenplays that didn't make the cut but which many critics thought had a chance. Nothing is stopping you from using these for your homework instead.
St. Vincent 
Mr. Turner
Dear White People
Gone Girl
Kill the Messenger
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Get On Up
The Fault in our Stars
The Boxtrolls
Big Eyes

*I'm a believer that sometimes even the director doesn't always know why he or she did something in their film. In fact, many things end up on the screen merely by mistake or by necessity. Still, that doesn't mean there was no meaning, just that the meaning was hidden. 
I realize that comes off very deterministic -- oh well.


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