An excerpt from my script analysis for Focus which will be available 03/02/15:
4.) Dialogue and Description
First up, the dialogue. As you might discern from the title, I wasn’t a fan.
I was reminded of the banter in Hitch between Smith and Eva Mendes, that was playful, but pushed right to the edge before becoming a chore to watch/read.
Where Hitch stopped, Focus didn’t.
There she is- I wanted to ask you
Yeah me too. No big cons? I
thought you were all big time.
No big cons. It’s a volume
business. Not sexy, I know- but
it’s profitable, it’s safe and it
works. Hell, we may even offer
health care next year.
Kind of a gyp.
Nicky smiles at her forwardness.
Maybe on the next one, George Raft.
But I just made you fifty K where’s
I’m an ingrate, I admit it. But I’m
ambitious – most people find it
Very charming. But if I could steer
the conversation back to my opening
line. You feel like going to the
Super Bowl? Really? Like, just us?
Nicky offers an affirmative shrug.
Yeah. That’d be great.
Good. Meet you there.
But, um, seriously- I want to thank
you for bringing me in on this.
Thanks for trusting me.
She extends her hand. He shakes.
No offense, but I never trusted
None taken. I assume you feel that
way about everybody.
I had a dog once, but yeah.
Poor wounded bird lining his nest
with hundred dollar bills…
It’s a sob story, I admit it. I
feel sorry for myself.
Genius must be such a burden.
Jess smiles. Nicky too. A long pause. A kiss moment? Again
Nicky squelches it coolly.
So, I’ll see you tomorrow.
She walks off, Nicky reaches into his breast pocket.
Wait- I forgot to give you your
No you didn’t.
She waves a SUPER BOWL TICKET over her shoulder as she exits
and he puts two and two together. He smirks, loving it,
dwelling on her exit.
What the HELL was that? They’re flirting, we get it, but this should read more “cool” and less “junior high dance.”
Jess accepts the compliment but changes the subject.
Farhad said you didn’t work for a
Couple years, yeah. Didn’t feel
right. Actually started feeling bad
about doing it… which is not
something you want in a
professional con artist. Empathy, a
heart… what a disaster.
Yeah. God forbid.
Seriously. Not so much about the
rich guys. But I think about some
of the ones when I was little. My
dad and I would run this scheme at
these churches. I’d speak in
tongues and he’d translate for a
donation. What happened to those
people? Or when I was 15, I ran a
credit card scam on this video
store in Pennsylvania- back when
they had the carbon paper slips? I
drove back there last year and it’s
not there. Video store was gone.
Don’t you think that was online
streaming? Or Netflix or the big
red thing at the grocery stores?
What is that thing?
Don’t tell me you blame yourself
for Borders Books too.
No. That was the Kindle.
Wow you really have become a wuss.
It was a crisis of faith.
All brought on by sleeping with me?
RedBox! That’s the thing at the
Did you just say that? Was that a
I think so.
Maybe you’re not such a wuss.
I even reached out to my dad.
Hadn’t seen him in years. We
buried a lot of our crap. Asked him
if he’d ever gone straight. He was
like, “I go straight every time I’m
on parole.” He told me that you
can’t live this life and then not
live it. ‘Be a man and move on…’
I’m working on it.
Jess thinks a moment, reflecting.
You said this was no way to live.
That I’d never be able to trust
anyone. I didn’t believe you then,
but I do now. I cut myself off.
All brought on by sleeping with me?
I was headed that way anyway. It
wasn’t that big of a deal.
Was that a dig?
Just a little one.
Why’d you go to all this trouble
Nicky. Absolution? Forgiveness?
Piece of mind? What?
I can convince anyone of anything.
One time I convinced a man that an
empty warehouse with a single chair
in it was the federal reserve. So
I’m good. A good liar.
Yeah. You’re the best.
But what I wanted to do was tell
you the truth. To tell you the
truth and to look into your eyes
I just need for you to believe me.
They stare at one another. Nicky awaits her answer.
I want to believe you Nicky. I
Now, a few decent jokes in there, but they’re LOST in all the other mundane droning. Again, GET TO THE POINT!
Those were the two longest offenders, but anytime Nicky and Jess swapped each others’ spit verbally I felt like…hmmm, if only there was a part of the script that described my frustration…
BANG! Owens SHOOTS NICKY IN THE CHEST, flipping him backward
in his chair.
What the fuck are you doing?!
Jess continues to SCREAM.
I couldn’t take another fucking
Now the small stuff:
A.) Don’t start sentences with Well, Then, Umm, etc.
B.) Don’t end more than two segments with ellipses (…).
Moving to the description.
It wasn’t bad, especially when compared to the “trying too hard” dialogue.
Two of my favorite bits:
Page 22 – It’s a slick, flirtatious ballet and she’s in the middle of it.
Page 42 – This ballet continues, as does Nicky’s fascination with her.
The one suggestion I’d make one the second example is to up the game a bit, and use a dance that’s sexier and/or more complex than a ballet. This way you can eliminate the two sentences that follow this good one.
Want the full version? Follow this link to the Focus script review.
And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.
The first chunk totally stalls out the forward propulsion – if there ever was any. Plus, setting up a scene in order to shuck and jive, and hope that pass for cool, daddio, metro humor, is to wast a viewers time. And remember, show, don’t tell (anecdote about speaking in tongues). Doubt any of this made it to a schooting script.
Very well said on the first part of this script!
Length? Absolutely, too long.
Ellipses and well/then/um? Shouldn’t be overdone but this is just how people talk. If it’s employed well, it’s fine.