The Gift of Human Speech

I’ve seen the movie, The Hateful Eight, about three times already, and I love it. It’s memorable, filled with dark humor, over the top violence – blood splattering bodies — and reams of some of the most sayable dialogue since Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs — another masterpiece that released in early October of this year.

The thing with Tarantino that I love is his gift of human speech.

Anything that his character say is pure gold. Lately, I’ve found myself reciting Major Marquis Warren’s hangman monologue — played by Samuel J. Jackson, one of my favorite actors. And who can forget the Royale with Cheese scene from Pulp Fiction — pure beauty.

I distinctly remember reciting Sam Jackson’s dialogue on the train — in my head, of course, I’m not crazy like the rest NYC finest’s citizens.

To me he’s a screenwriter’s director, everything he writes on the page appears on the screen. That’s really something interesting to note, because a lot of times a writer’s script can be changed so much that he/she doesn’t even claim it anymore.

Case in point — Max Landis’, Hollywood screenwriting wunderkind, film, American Ultra — that script was changed around a lot, scenes thrown out like yesterday’s newspapers. Even the tone was changed from Landis’ more playful, funnier tone towards a darker, less funnier one.

There are many reasons for this too. Budget issues, studio executive disagreement, location issues, deadlines to meet, etc, etc, etc. I understand.

When I shot my first short, I only shot 1/3 of my script and improvised the rest, on a whim. (Thank you two years of improv, time well spent).

That’s why when I watch a Tarantino film, I always get happy when I see that he hardly noticed changed anything in his script because he keeps his initial vision — showcasing his confidence in his writing.

And when he does cut a scene or two, it’s usually not that significant — never taking away from the vibe of the film. For example, in this script he cut a pissing scene involving Jennifer Jason Leigh and Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell, John Ruth, allowed his prisoner, Daisy Domergue, to take a nice little whiz before going into the hotel, Minnie’s Haberdashery. I really enjoyed this scene, because it gives the audience an insight into their relationship, a odd and violent one.

The most significant cuts I’ve noticed with Tarantino was in the Django script. Django would have intense. nightmare flashbacks of him being a slave, which were peppered through the script every couple of pages or so. I guess, this was Tarantino’s way of showing really intimate character moments — which he’s master at. The fun thing about Tarantino is the way he’s able to run circles around other by writers by creating drama in one location — flawless scene construction.

Most screenwriters jump from location to location on a whim, creating no drama, no conflict at all. It’s just a waste and uneconomical, if your looking at a script for a producer’s eye. This trait is something, I’ve noticed among dialogue writers in film, television, as well as, theatre. They lock their characters one room and play. I’ve learned this trick too (improv days again). This is an amazing thing to do.


One: it lowers budgets by having one location (think about Reservoir Dogs — an successful indie, Tarantino’s first film).

Two: it forces the writer to understand the character even more, by hearing him talk, thus bringing out their characters’ personality traits.

Three: it’s a breeding place for drama. All great fiction writer throw characters with different personalities together, and have them duke it out, either verbally or physically.

In drama: Conflict is king.

Stop and think about Aaron Sorkin for a second.

Every scene he writes is laced with dialogue, one location and has conflict. This is his trademark used in Steve Jobs, The Social Network, The West Wing, Newsroom, and many others.

The beginning of the Social Network ,Mark Zuckerberg  (Jesse Eisenberg), is breaking up with his girlfriend, Erica Albright (Rooney Mara). It’s a eight page scene, brimming conflict — said quickly.  This is Sorkin’s specialty, which has made him an household name in Hollywood.

 Evidently, he’s aware of this too. He was even quoted, saying “any time you get two people in a room who disagree about anything, the time of day, there is a scene to be written. That’s what I look for.”

Boom, there you go. This is why he continues to get projects green lighted and why Tarantino can still make his offbeat, genre bending, dark humor projects — cause he’s a master of human speech.



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