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Just Saw [Insert Movie Title Here]...

...or how my MFA in screenwriting ruined any chance of enjoying a movie like a normal person. If I apply what I've learned to existing films, would it have made a better film?

SPOILER WARNING: Please be advised, I plan to discuss plot points in detail so if you haven't seen the movie and don't want the surprise ruined, stop here.

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Location: California, United States

Monday, February 06, 2006

Good Night and Good Luck

Logline: A TV newsman puts his network at risk confronting a US Senator on his investigation tactics.

The good idea:

Recreate the behind the scenes discussion at CBS during the Senate hearings investigating Communist activities in the US.

What worked:

Edward R. Murrow's own words. An unconventional story structure, probably based on the needs from actual historical events, the movie is more a four act play than a conventional film structure.

Act One ends with Murrow's decision to run the story about Milo Radulovich being brought up on charges because his father subscribed to a Serbian newspaper which makes Murrow a target for Senator McCarthy.

Act Two ends with Murrow's report on Senator McCarthy.

Act Three deals with McCarthy's interrogation of Anne Lee Moss, his rebuttal to Murrow's original report, Murrow's subsequent rebuttal, and Don Hollenbeck's suicide.

Act Four Murrow is, for all intents and purposes, demoted by CBS for losing corporate sponsors for his reporting. Murrow delivers a prescient analysis of the future of television.

What didn't work:

I don't know if Murrow and McCarthy ever met face to face in real life. The lack of a final confrontation between them left the story unsatisfying. Even though the Senator's downfall was directly precipitated by Murrow's reporting it didn't feel like a triumph for Murrow.

Dan Hollenback's suicide didn't leave a significant emotional impact. His relationship with Murrow was respectful but hardly a friendship. The choice to show Murrow only in his professional environment denies us an opportunity to learn how his decisions affected him on a personal level. By confining the locations almost exclusively within the halls of CBS, we don't see how Murrow and McCarthy affect the average person.

While he did ultimately lose his show, he didn't really lose anything, CBS did and it's hard to have sympathy for a corporation.


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