Saturday, May 02, 2009

Ending The Story

I'm always going on about, when I'm reading a script, how I can tell in the first couple of pages if it's going to be any good. Let me put it this way; I have never read a script that started out bad and then suddenly became wonderful. It's like going on a blind date. As you primp, you hope, nay pray, that the guy isn't going to be loser in the first degree. And when Mr. Dreamboat spits like a dog and has the table manners of a donkey, you want to get it over with as quickly as possibly.

Nobody wants to read a crummy script, least of all me. It's hard on my eyes, I'm constantly changing my printer ribbons. Hell, my printer, just 2 years old, died on me this week. So when I crack open a script, I want to be entertained and engaged from the get go.

And the ending is just as crucial. I've read many scripts that after great foreplay, petered out and limped towards a disjointed, discombobulated ending. A good ending shouldn't be all that much work, really, if you've done your job right in the pages that came before it. It should be organic, not half-baked. If it's a twist ending, the clues should have been there all along, like THE SIXTH SENSE. The ending should not be something that makes you go hmmmm.

Take, for example, the glorious GONE WITH THE WIND. Scarlett finally comes to her senses and realizes that she's loved Rhett all along, but it's too late. He spurns her. Would the movie have become the classic it now is if Rhett had instead swept her into his arms and played fishy face? Not on your life.

Or another great movie, CASABLANCA. Yeah, I suppose Rick and Ilsa could have run away together, ending up in a tenement in Brooklyn, far away from the realities of war. On second thought, I don't think so.

A script is like a jigsaw puzzle. Page by page, you're putting it together, and when you get to page 105 or 116, the ending should write itself.

Note: I'm not a big fan of trick endings. You know the kind I mean, where the bad guy, seemingly dead, rises from the grave to wreak more havoc not once, but several times. A good ending is like a good house guest. They don't overstay their welcome, they clean up after themselves, and they remember to keep the toilet seat down.


The CineManiac said...

Looking for some of the scripts on the black list saw a post of yours that said you had a pdf of the blacklist scripts. Is this just a pdf of the Blacklist itself or actual scripts on the blacklist? And can IO get a copy either way?

PJ McIlvaine said...

Yes! It's the actual scripts. Shoot me an e-mail at

pjmac56 at

and I'll send the link.