Thursday, July 15, 2010

People Will Talk IX - Billy Wilder: Guerilla Script Marketer

For the unfamiliar, a "reveal" in screenwriting parlance is the placement of key, revelatory information in a story. Most times, the last reveal is the most important revelation of all.


EXT. MOON – SEA OF TRANQUILITY – 7/20/1969 - 02:51 ZULU

APOLLO 11 stands placidly in the stillness, EARTH floating in the background.

A HATCH opens and ASTRONAUT NEIL ARMSTRONG steps carefully out and onto the nine-rung LADDER. 


             I’m on the ladder.


                  ARMSTRONG (CONT’D)
             I’m beginning my descent.


                  ARMSTRONG (CONT’D)
             Last rung... Stepping off...


                  ARMSTRONG (CONT’D)
             That’s one small step for a man... 
             One giant leap--Oh, Jesus...
             stepped right in it!

Somewhere in the night, a DOG BARKS.

Billy Wilder has related the story of when he lived in a room in Berlin in the 1920s. He was an aspiring screenwriter with no connections. In the room next door lived the housekeeper’s daughter. Every night she brought home a different man and Wilder had to try to fall asleep to the nightly “serenade” of their amorous behavior. Then one night the sounds stopped, and after a moment Wilder’s door opened. In crept a man in his underwear, holding his pants and shoes. In the next room, another man began to yell and threaten that he’d “kill the guy!”

Wilder realized that his visitor was the head of a studio, so he offered him a quid pro quo: he said for saving him, would the guy read one of his screenplays? At first the guy told him to bring it to the guy’s office. But Wilder said he’d be forgotten by then, so Wilder asked him to read it there, on the spot. The guy said he didn’t have his glasses. Wilder said he’d read it to him out loud. So, instead, the guy said he’d buy it for 500 marks. Wilder accepted, only to find when the guy had left that he didn’t take the script! 

– From Schmucks With Underwoods, by Max Wilk, Applause, 2004, pp. 147 -8. #


Lee A. Matthias

OPENING SLUG from an idea by Hal Erickson.

Quote of the Post:

"If at first, the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it."
---Albert Einstein

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