One of the screenwriting field's living legends passed away today, and it instantly brought me back to a year ago when I had the fortune of attending the San Francisco International Film Festival's Master Class that Pierson gave on his classic film script for Dog Day Afternon. He also co-wrote Cool Hand Luke, and several other important screenplays, and directed some very intelligent theatrical and television films. More recently he consulted on Mad Men. In his honor, I found a draft of his Dog Day script online, and consider this your opportunity to read it (assuming you've seen the film; if not, get on that, immediately).
EXT. ELECTRIC SIGN
It FILLS THE SCREEN (designed to exactly FILL THE FRAME size
of whatever ratio we're shooting in). It says:
This message will be a little cryptic to the movie audience
on an essentially BLACK SCREEN. HOLD for a beat, then it
changes: the lights flash this sign, which should explain it
And a slow distant ROLL OF THUNDER in the far distance; now
the SOUND of media begin to come up loud, under:
EXT. FLATBUSH AVENUE - DAY
LONG SHOT down the Avenue, 400 mm lens, heat waves shimmering,
thousands of old people, and people with children in strollers
moving restlessly about in the heat on those endless miles
The SHOT is ON SCREEN only for a beat or two, then gone...
SOUND TRACK COMES FROM A THOUSAND TRANSISTOR RADIOS, TV SETS,
AUTO RADIOS, BLENDED IN THE OPEN AIR...
RADIO ANNOUNCER 1 (V.O.)
...the situation continued tense in
the Middle East today, as...
EXT. SHEA STADIUM (TV CLIP) - DAY
An unnamed player swings and hits a high pop up...
ANNOUNCER 2 (V.O.)
...hits a high inside pitch foul
into the upper stands...
ANGLE ON CROWD
as the ball comes down they scramble and fight for it...
A touch of viciousness...
ANNOUNCER 3 (V.O.)
...B-52's meanwhile, unleashed the
heaviest bombing of the war...
From PAGE Awards' Zoe Simmons, in their newsletter to contest entrants:
But if you do not advance to the Quarter-Final Round, please don’t be discouraged or feel that it’s a “death knell” for your script.Screenwriting is a lifelong endeavor, and one contest season does not mean the end of your career or that you “failed” in any sense of the word. It simply means there are improvements that can still be made to your script. Every year some really great scripts come sooooo close to advancing, but miss by just a few points. Every year the results are different.
So, whatever happens in these next few weeks, my advice? Take a Zen approach to your career. It will keep you sane amidst all the ups and downs of this business. Stay firmly focused on developing your scripts and honing your craft.
Here are some suggestions for you to consider:
If you've had your script sitting in an unopened file on your desktop, open it up and read it again as if for the first time, with fresh eyes.
See the story unfold on the movie screen in your mind’s eye. Feel where the story flows and where it doesn’t. Take notes.
Really be honest with yourself –not to beat yourself up, but rather with an eye toward taking your work to the next level and pushing yourself to excel.Because that is what this is all about.
Above all, don’t let negative mind chatter take over. This isn't about telling yourself “I’ll never make it” or “why did I ever think I could do this in the first place?” or stewing about how “awful” everything is.
If, when you review your script, you feel it can be improved upon, you’re in excellent company! Top screenwriters are always rewriting and polishing their work, and they always remain curious and open to being a “student” of the art form.