Comparing the Opening Scene of “Saving Private Ryan” to the Original Script

Scott Myers compares  Robert Rodat’s first few pages of script to Steven Spielberg’s finished film version:

* Rodat uses some of the secondary slugs simply to identify a location (e.g., OFFSHORE, THE CLIFFS) or a character (e.g., A FIGURE, MILLER), but other times he conveys action within the slug itself: A DIRECT HIT ON A NEARBY LANDING CRAFT, THE MOTORMAN IS RIPPED TO BITS, THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT HITS THE BEACH. He could have chosen to do this:

A NEARBY LANDING CRAFT

Hit directly by an artillery shell.

THE MOTORMAN

is ripped to bits.

THE LEAD LANDING CRAFT

hits the beach.

But he didn’t. Why? I think the reason he put the action in the slugs is because by capping the description, he makes the action BIGGER, befitting how big this sequence is. In other words, he makes the action impossible to ignore.

* Each secondary slug suggests a different camera shot, so in effect Rodat is able to ‘direct’ the action without using directing lingo — except of course when he does, which is twice:

THE CAMERA MOVES PAST THE FACES OF THE MEN

PAN DOWN TO MILLER'S HAND

But aren’t we told not to use directing language? Yes, and that still holds — for selling scripts. That’s the draft we write to sell the story. A shooting script is for purposes of producing the movie. In this case, Rodat already knew the script was sold: When Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks say they want to make a war movie, you’ve pretty much already got a green light. So this draft is, while not quite a shooting script, also not quite a selling script either.

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