An excerpt from my script review for The Shallows which will be available 06/27/16:
4.) Dialogue and Description
First of all this script was almost entirely description. That’s to be expected, because it’s about a girl being stuck in the ocean trying to outwit a giant shark.
Unless this is Finding Nemo, the shark shouldn’t talk, and the script does a decent job of only having Nancy chat herself up occasionally.
The important thing to take note of here is digestible description.
Throughout the story the writer did an excellent job of breaking shots up, so nothing ran long intimidating our brains.
Generally, when breaking blocks up with dialogue, this isn’t an issue, but it’s a very clever technique to make note of if you’re writing something like this or Castaway, where we’re watching your character more than listening to them.
And for the most part, the tone was smart…
BIG TAIL snaps up, following like a distant caboose.
Three-second lag. It’s that big.
No more Drunk. Big spray of water can be seen as the
thing feeds underneath. A turbine spinning.
Spots that grim
DORSAL FIN make its appearance.
Submerges again like a submarine top.
Surfers gotta surf. Shark’s gotta eat.
Impressive how the shark was described as a cold, mechanical beast, as if it weren’t alive or was devoid of feelings.
This worked, because Nancy can’t reason with it, so it might as well be a machine.
(Sadly, there were two instances where we’re reminded the shark is a living creature, and that kind of defeated the whole tone previously set up.)
One more example of the tone, because I made a note of it, lol.
Feels the big patches of razor teeth as it digs into her
It’s all a haze of blood and visceral motion. A monster
pitbull digging into flesh. Having its way with a
favorite chew toy.
No music cues. It’s silent and scary as hell.
Borderline directing, but it worked for me.
However, there was a time or two (or four) where the author tried to be too clever…
All we really know about Nancy is her name. Dressed for
the beach, 3-day-old surf tee and shorts. Big Patagonia
Is the first line needed? Of course we only know her name, that’s all you’ve told us. But then you go on to describe her, so we know more than her name.
To me, that sentence is unnecessary, especially since we do learn more about Nancy as the story goes on.
Pulls off her tee-shirt to reveal a black bikini top.
Trades the tee shirt for a spongy, thin rash guard.
Rubber, short-sleeved Local Motion.
Unzips her shorts, pulling them down…
To me the focus on Nancy’s body was over the top. With Blake Lively starring in it are we going to get some sexy shots? Sure, it’ll help the trailer sell the movie, but with the script the STORY’S what’s important, not that we’re going to see sexy shots of a scantily clad coed.
Comes back up, paddling stronger. Does something that
guys don’t: giggles. Loves the feeling of the water.
What the fuck was this? Real men don’t cry either?
There had to be a better way to convey to us that Nancy’s giddy about what she’s doing without sounding like fucking Don Draper..
WE’RE RIGHT WITH NANCY
I was so SICK of reading this. Of course we’re with Nancy! We’re reading the story! Part of reading the script is putting ourselves in the shoes of the hero!
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