Friday, September 6, 2013

What I learned from... watching END OF WATCH

So, in the interest of actually putting things on my blog, despite the fact that I'm not really in the place for major thoughtpieces right now, I'm going to try a new thing.

I've got mixed feelings about the screenwriting site Scriptshadow on various levels, ranging from the aesthetic to the ethical. But one thing I have found interesting is the occasion feature the site does where they list 10 things they learned from a certain film from a writing perspective. So I'm going to go through a couple of movies I saw recently and talk about what I learned from them. Not going to be 10 things, not even going to review the movie. Just think of it as a series of quick thoughts on what techniques worked and which ones didn't.

END OF WATCH (2012, David Ayers)

Tip 1: Supporting characters need to have a reason to exist.

Jake Gyllenhaal & Michael Pena's significant others barely get any screentime and they don't have a character arc of their own. But yet they occupy a lot of time and space in the movie relative to their function. What do they establish that Gyllenhaal & Pena's conversations & squad-car time do not already establish?

Tip 2: For big emotional moments, less is more.

At the end of the movie (SPOILERS), a main character gets up at someone's funeral to give the eulogy. Normally, you'd think a writer would go for broke on this. But Ayers just has the character choke out, "he was my brother" and then break down. It's a very strong choice because the character has been established as macho & intelligent & talkative. So this gives us an idea of how much the character has been hurt by this death.

Tip 3: Know when to end.

Unfortunately, Ayers decided to end the movie with a flashback to a typical "day in the life" moment. It doesn't give us anything new, emotionally or information-wise. In fact, by cutting back, it undermines the genuine emotion the previous scene had brought up.