BUMPER STICKER DIALOGUE
by William C. Martell
I was browsing Cafe Press (where the website store is) and noticed dozens of T shirts for sale that sport lines of dialogue from hit films. We'll ignore the copyright issues for a moment and focus on how amazing this is. A screenwriter types a line of dialogue, and actor speaks that line on screen, then someone swipes it and puts it on a T shirt... and hundreds of people actually buy that shirt and wear that line of dialogue. They wear it!
Hide The Rum!
My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die! I believe you have my stapler
I want my two dollars!
Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho!
Franks and beans!
I am serious... and don't call me Shirley!
This is my boomstick!
Porch monkey for life (I'm taking it back)
How much for one rib?
Excuse me, I speak jive.
I'll be back.
Tomorrow is another day.
You're so money, baby!
If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.
And 7,130 others! Think about that for a minute. Then think about all of the great lines from movies - you, know, the ones you remember years after seeing the film. The lines that bring back memories of the film when you hear them (or see them on a T shirt).
Years ago, I was talking with Pat Duncan (COURAGE UNDER FIRE) about what he called Bumper Sticker Dialogue - those lines like "Go ahead, make my day" that end up on bumper stickers and T shirts. Pat did a rewrite on my favorite Chuck Norris movie, and one of his lines ended up on a bumper sticker! You don't get any extra pay for that, but knowing that something you wrote was good enough to stick on the back of someone's new Mercedes is kind of heady. All of us want to write something that stands the test of time, but most of us think about the entire script... how about wring that great line of dialogue that everyone will be quoting for years to come?
No one really wants realistic dialogue in their film, what they wants is dialogue that appears to be realistic, but really serves a story and character purpose. Movie dialogue should be all of those great lines we come up with the day after the argument. Every line should be a "I wish I'd thought of that!" line. Of course, some lines will work and others will be "just okay", but you have to try to make them ALL gems, or you'll end up with some "just okay" lines and the rest not very good at all! Push yourself to do the best every step of the way! Really try to come up with those great lines that people will be quoting for years to come.
One of my favorite movies is Richard Brooks' THE PROFESSIONALS, a western about a team of four of the best guns in the west who travel south of the border to rescue the kidnaped wife of wealthy railroad baron. You could take every line from that movie and put it on a T shirt! Every line seems realistic - it's exactly what the character would say in the situation, but is so carefully crafted that it hits the bullseye. Here are some random examples:
"Your hair was darker then."
"My heart was lighter then."
"I have the highest respect for him... as a soldier."

"Certain women have a way of changing boys into men... and men back into boys."
"What's the proposition?"
"Well, you won't lose your pants... your life, maybe."

"Well I'll be damned!"
"Most of us are."
"These horses will have to do."
"I can make a horse run, but I can't make it do."
Those and many more are in the first 13 minutes of THE PROFESSIONALS (including the title sequence). It's a great film, you should check it out. Dialogue like this may seem intimidating, but nobody actually comes up with stuff off the top of their heads (okay, maybe a few geniuses can, bur not me). There are two ways to end up with dialogue like this:
1) Keep notecards in your pocket and whenever you come up with somegreat line of dialogue or bit, jot it down. Eventually you have a few pages of great lines, and you put them in your script... as if you came up with them off the top of your head. You may end up with ten years of great lines in one script.
2) Rewriting. Work the lines over and over again until you come up withsome thing much better than that line that came off the top of your head. Most people don't spend enough time rewriting their dialogue - really playing with it until they come up with something great.

I use both methods. When you watch classic films from the 1930s and 1940s, you'll notice how fast paced and clever the lines are. BRINGING UP BABY is another great example of zippy, witty dialogue. Writers from the "Golden Age" wrote great dialogue, because they wrote it the old fashioned way: Line by Line. Every WORD received individual attention. So go through your script line by line and try to find the most clever, witty, way to say each line. Someday, you may be complaining that your dialogue is on everybody's T shirt or bumper sticker... and you didn't make cent.
"If I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you." - written by Pat Duncan.
- Bill
Free Script Tips Every Day:
http://www.scriptsecrets.net
Copyright 2007 by William C. Martell
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Free Script Tips Every Day: http://www.scriptsecrets.net

Oh great! First you diss MWSm by not posting your "Script Secrets" here, now you're spamming the place. :~)

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
"If I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you." - written by Pat Duncan.

Or, "If I want any "crap" from you, I'll squeeze your head" - written by unknown.
Good "Script Secret" (of course, aren't they all?). One thing, though, please tell wannabes not to make every character's line "cutsie" and "clever." Damn those movies get obnoxious quick.
But I know what you mean by hearing really good lines and wishing that you had thought them up.

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Years ago, I was talking with Pat Duncan (COURAGE UNDER FIRE) about what he called Bumper Sticker Dialogue - those ... did a rewrite on my favorite Chuck Norris movie, and one of his lines ended up on a bumper sticker!

Or become a lyrics for a country music song.

RonB
"There's a story there...somewhere"
@reader2.panix.com:
BUMPER STICKER DIALOGUE by William C. Martell I was browsing Cafe Press (where the website store is) and noticed dozens ... a T shirt... and hundreds of people actually buy that shirt and wear that line of dialogue. They wear it!

And the writer gets no residuals. Emotion: sad
cd

The difference between immorality and immortality is "T". I like Earl Grey.
@reader2.panix.com:
Hide The Rum!Pirates of the Caribbean My name is Inigo Montoya, you killed my father, prepare to die!Princess Bride I ... The lines that bring back memories of the film when you hear them (or see them on a T shirt).

"It's easy to grin
When your ship comes in
And you've got the stockmarket beat
But the man worthwhile
Is the man who can smile
When his shorts are too tight in the seat"
jaybee
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
This is my boomstick!

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Army of Darkness
@reader2.panix.com:

This is my boomstick!

??

Army of Darkness .
SYJsXAtSoNc

Tomorrow is another day.

??

You failed to recognize a famous line from Gone With The Wind ?! OK, that does it. You are banned from MSWm for life. :-)

alt.flame Special Forces
"Militia members are sexy, if a little overweight. Maybe the government will finally take away our guns, so we can be as dull as the Europeans." Jim Goad
"If I want your opinion, I'll beat it out of you." - written by Pat Duncan.

Or, "If I want any "crap" from you, I'll squeeze your head" - written by unknown. Good "Script Secret" (of course, aren't they all?). One thing, though, please tell wannabes not to make every character's line "cutsie" and "clever." Damn those movies get obnoxious quick.

Case in point: The Sleeping Car . It's bad enough when every character talks the same way (a common fault, and which is especially so when the writer and director are the same guy), but worse when every character is a smartass and not a particularly witty one.
But I know what you mean by hearing really good lines and wishing that you had thought them up.

Never mind about that. Almost all the lines Mr. Martell cited were from movies that are just way too white-bread. I want a T-shirt that says, "You have my warmest congratulations"... or, better yet, one with the entire "When The Child Was a Child" recurring poem in Wings of Desire .

Also, it would be fun to have a T-shirt that bears Bela Lugosi's immortal line from the 1934 version of The Black Cat : "Supernatural, perhaps... baloney, perhaps not." Preferably with no attribution. That way I could walk around wearing it on this occasion and that and see how long it takes for someone to recognize it. :-)

alt.flame Special Forces
"Militia members are sexy, if a little overweight. Maybe the government will finally take away our guns, so we can be as dull as the Europeans." Jim Goad
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