IT & How to Properly Editorialize in Your Screenplay

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IT & How to Properly Editorialize in Your Screenplay

In the script IT, Bill and his six friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise. IT was made for 35 million and Warner Bros. considered the film a gamble.

In the script IT, Bill and his six friends must overcome their own personal fears to battle the murderous, bloodthirsty clown known as Pennywise. IT was made for 35 million and Warner Bros. considered the film a gamble. An R-rated horror film starring a 13-year-old cast—despite a miniseries two decades before and a trailer amounting record breaking views on YouTube, there were no precedents for this film’s success. While R-ratings have been proving in the past year or so their ability to still create lucrative properties in genre films (see Logan, Deadpool, and Get Out) the studio wondered if the film could garner the audience needed to make back its budget. Get Out was only made for $5mil, and although Deadpool and Logan were made for much more ($58 and $97-127 mil respectively), they had a decade of X-Men films to establish an audience.

But IT had an established IP to work off of too. The 90’s miniseries was a cult hit, and Stephen King has a built in fan base of his own. A fanbase that’s picky about the quality of King adaptations however, as The Dark Tower failed miserably at the box office only months before. Yet IT became a cultural moment, following the trend we’ve seen recently for films waiting a decade+ to make a sequel (or in this case a remake), and grossed $700.4 mil worldwide. While we now have the hindsight of a massive success, producers were initially reluctant about the film’s performance. The studio originally denied several versions of the script and lost a director due to budget constraints before settling on Andy Muschietti as the director with a screenplay by Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga, and Gary Dauberman.

The script is decently balanced between indoor and outdoor scenes, with 60.9% of the film taking place indoors. The script is also an action-heavy work with 65.7% action to 34.3% dialogue. The script contains a whopping 82 characters, though most of those are fairly insignificant. We do have a large number of significant characters, however, partially due to the film being an ensemble film. The main cast compromises the losers club, a group of six characters. Therefore it makes sense that among the ten significant characters are the members of the losers club, Pennywise, and the main bullies. Out of 115 total scenes, the significant scenes are 47-51, 76-80, 68-73, and 30-44. It’s interesting to note none of the first 30 or final 35 scenes register as significant. Particularly due to the loser’s club ultimate takedown of Pennywise during the final moments as well as their blood pact to finish the deed should he ever return certainly feel significant during the film. What’s more interesting is that scene 76 was removed for the final film, albeit the following scenes in that range certainly are important as the characters are regrouping emotionally.

Because the film contains so many characters, 32.2% of all dialogue is in the hands of other characters not readily significant to the story. Main characters Bill and Beverly then only have 15.2% and 8.11% of dialogue respectively. Richie, who appears 7.43% of the time gets 8.77% of dialogue as the crass comic relief character. And then Ben, who only appears in 5.69% of the script speaks 7.75% of the time. Stanley serves as the inverse of Ben as he appears 7.67% of the time and only speaks 5.16% of the time. The most notable disparity between appearances and spoken lines comes through Pennywise, who only actually appears in 1.98% of the screenplay but takes up 7.18% of the dialogue. As a result of him having more dialogue than appearances, you can see that Pennywise is a driving character in the screenplay. During Pennywise’s introduction on scene 7, the main dialogue peaks are caused by him doing the majority of the talking in this action-heavy sequence. He may be luring Georgie into the sewers to bite his arm off, but that takes verbal coercion.

IT follows typical horror conventions by preferring action over dialogue. Yet because the percent isn’t too imbalanced, we see dialogue often increasing during the large action moments. Reading the script you can see that the smaller percentage of dialogue is mainly due to the short, quippy nature of the speech in the screenplay. So while there actually are many dialogue moments, they are kept short, favoring one-liners over monologues. To keep the dialogue short yet impactful, the screenplay often breaks the rules so to speak and includes many editorial moments in the action writing. The action writing colors the dialogue, adding nuance and emotion to it instead of including it in the dialogue itself. Editorial moments are also used to build the suspense of the screenplay and to make the transitions between scenes smooth on the page. And so while many of these moments are simply for the reader experience, the writers are smart to make sure the editorial moments could also influence the visual or aural experience of the film.

Part of what may have made the film so costly (aside from child actors, a large cast, and a CGI-heavy villain), are the numerous locations—in particular those only used once. While it is typical of a film this size to use many locations, if the one-off locations were condensed to take place in settings already familiar to the audience it likely would have saved the studio some money on the budget. Creating new sets and moving to new locations is not only costly but time consuming for a production of this size. Many scenes which featured Travis, the bully, were isolated from the rest of the characters and events of the film. Should his role have been reduced, or even cut, the film’s overall trajectory would likely not have changed and the budget could have been greatly reduced. Yet in the end I agree with the decision of keeping these scenes in as it adds a more human villain to the story, a story which ultimately revolves around childhood fear.

While IT may have been an expensive venture into unknown territory, there’s no denying the risks paid off. The script intelligently stuck with the child side of the story for the first film, as many fans of the novel would agree that it’s the more engaging half. In doing so, the film crafts both a horror story as well as a coming-of-age dramedy, and through the editorial moments is able to pull off both tones very well. The voice of the author sets the script apart, giving it a tone which resonates with both reader and viewer alike. Here’s hoping the sequel can understand what made this screenplay so special and pull off a similar feat.

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