The Bag Means Your Mind

A delightful mix of insightful comments and ignorant assumptions about screenwriting... and such.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Video Research

As part of my homework for writing my football script, I watched a bunch of football movies. I wanted to see what they did right, what they did wrong, and what I should avoid as far as clichés and over used material. I’m both sad and elated to say that, barring Remember the Titans (which I really like a lot), all of them were plain awful. I watched Friday Night Lights. I watched North Dallas Forty. I watched The Longest Yard. I watched The Program. I also watched a few others (the list isn’t long or storied). They were all awful. I thought that The Longest Yard and North Dallas Forty would be the best of the lot. I was so under-whelmed. Whatever luster they may have had is now gone. Since, they failed to capture me in any way, their flaws just stood out like an open receiver, arms flailing wildly. Any Given Sunday is the only DVD I have yet to watch, but since I hated the movie so much when I saw it originally, I can’t bring myself to open the packaging let alone view it. I suppose I’ll have to suffer through it again at some point.

I also watched movies that I thought would help out with my writing. I saw Saving Private Ryan and We Were Soldiers back to back, because I want parts of the my story to have a war movie type feel. I really like We Were Soldiers, but watching it in such close proximity to the venerable Saving Private Ryan really exposed its flaws in my eyes. I also watched The Natural and Rollerball.

The Natural is one of my favorites (maybe my favorite sports film). So many of the football films are exposés that criticize the sport rather than celebrate it. The Natural treats baseball as a good thing that people end up corrupting. Roy Hobbs is a legend in the game. He elevates the team and captures the imagination of the public. When Ty Jackson, the main character in my story, hits the field I want him to have some of that he’s-too-good-to-believe magic. I also want my story to celebrate football without seeming like a 120 minute infomercial for the NFL. It won’t be easy.

Rollerball was another movie I viewed (just last night as a matter of fact). It has a player that is bigger than the game. It also opens up with a prolonged in-game segment as my story does. It was great to see how character came through in those opening moments that were short on dialogue and heavy on action. Rollerball has its flaws, but it still holds up. “Jonathan! Jonathan!”

In addition to my movie watching, I also took in many hours of NFL Films documentaries. Lots of great stuff there. If you like football, hopefully you will have the good fortunes to watch a segment called The Rites of Autumn. Written by NFL Hall of Fame writer Ray Didinger, it eloquently expresses the essence of football and why it resonates with Americans. Awesome stuff. If I could post a link to it without Steve Sabol showing up and kicking me in the crotch, I’d do it in a finstant*.

I hope all of the above plus book research helps me craft a compelling story. First draft is done. Now I’m in the evaluating/overhauling stage. Things are muddy. I need to get on track. I want a 115 page script packed with quality.

*quicker than an instant.


  • At 7:18 PM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said…

    Friday Night Lights is an excellent movie, not perfect, but damned good. You don't get choked up at the end? You cold bastard.

    You're WAY OFF son on that one, way off.

  • At 8:38 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said…

    The camera movements and washed out blue-ish visuals drove me absolutely crazy. And they didn't spend enough time with any of the characters, so I didn't care about the QB with the crazy mother. I didn't like that they scraped the barrel with the race card at the end. It felt kind of smarmy.

    So I am a cold bastard.

  • At 7:19 AM, Blogger L.R. Williams said…

    I've got to agree with Pat on this one. Friday Night Lights is terrific & along with Remeber the Titans, one of the few great football movies made. I'll pass on the cold bastard part.

  • At 1:22 AM, Blogger Patrick J. Rodio said…

    The book hits a lot harder with the "race card" thing, which actually makes it pretty interesting.

    I do throughly enjoy Titans though, and when they're running down the field at the end, black teammate & white teammate, it brings a lump to my throat, knwoing that in one scene they've SMASHED through racism and ended it altogether!

    Ok, maybe not, but it was a good scene. And I later had the lump removed, you can barely see the scar.

  • At 3:19 AM, Blogger Brett said…

    I think RUDY is to football what THE NATURAL is to baseball-- a nostalgiac reminder of the pure goodness possible in the sport if we forget/ignore the corrosive excesses of the modern game as overcompensated profession.

    Part of the problem in making football an accessible and heartwarming topic for movies is the fact that it pretty much requires 22 guys working in quasi-military cohesiveness.

    Think about simple iconic images:

    HOOSIERS? Jimmy Chitwood calmly draining shot after shot after shot as Coach stands there talking to him.

    FIELD OF DREAMS? Ray Kinsella tossing BP to Shoeless Joe in a perfect field of green.

    What's the analogous football moment we would offer as competition? Part of what makes football a great game is precisely what makes it a hard sell in movie form-- it is the ultimate ensemble piece, and we prefer our heroic tales to be about individuals, or maybe small bands of four or five individuals. 22 specialized players (plus special teamers)... that's a lot of characterization to work through both as a writer and as a viewer.

    If I was asked to suggest a possible tack to consider (and I understand that I wasn't!) I think I'd suggest a point of view which looks at the TEAM as one individual and the new replacement player as a second individual, and the tension comes from those two "characters" coming to grips with one another.

    Wow. I sorta went nutso here. Must be the hour...

  • At 9:10 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said…

    Rudy is and isn't about football. We hear about his desire to play, but so little time is devoted to the playing of the sport.

    I would argue that the movie you are talking about doesn't exist...yet. It's a void I would like to fill.

  • At 8:45 PM, Blogger Scribe LA said…

    Oh dear... I was dead set on recommending RUDY (I cry at the end. EVERY TIME)... but since that has been noted... how about WILDCATS? It's got a lovely Goldie Hawn and a young Woody Harrelson and Wesley Snipes. Also, the football playing is well executed and shot.
    Good luck!

  • At 10:35 PM, Blogger Thomas Crymes said…

    Wildcats. Hmmm. That one slipped by me. I'll sick TiVo on it and see if it can nab a showing.


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