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Moving Words: Script To Screen’s Novel Take On Film

A Q&A with the site’s founder John Kinnane

Focus Features 09.20.2018
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Like many great ideas, Script to Screen was born out necessity. Young filmmaker John Kinnane and his brothers—who together form the independent film company Kinnane Films—were stuck with writer's block. Guided by Alfred Hitchcock’s mantra—"To make a great film you need three things: The script, the script, and the script”—the filmmakers compared the screenplays from their favorite movies to the finished films to see how the words on the page transformed when they appeared on screen. To help his brothers out, John Kinnane started creating short videos that illustrated this comparison between script and screen. With more than 100 videos up on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, his short screenwriting tutorials have become mandatory viewing for filmmakers, actors, and cinephiles. “This is the greatest page I’ve ever come across!!!” writes one fan, and another adds, “An indispensable tool for any aspiring filmmaker!” Of course, many of his favorite scenes come from Focus films, such as BlacKkKlansman, Darkest Hour, Moonrise Kingdom, Lost in Translation, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and Dallas Buyers Club.

We spoke with John Kinnane about what drives him to create these videos, what he's learned, and what makes a great scene.

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Script to Screen focuses in on a scene from BlacKkKlansman.

How did you come up with the idea of contrasting script and final film in real time?

It all started back in September 2017, when my brothers and I were writing our first screenplay together. We would run into problems. "Are we writing too much dialogue?” “Are we being too descriptive?” To deal with these questions and cure our writer's block, we’d find an iconic, yet similar scene to ours. We would then pull up the video clip, along with the script, and attempt to watch the film and read the screenplay at the same time. My brothers and I found this process extraordinarily insightful, and above all, inspiring. To be able to witness how acclaimed actors, directors, and writers all interpret a script differently is invaluable information in my opinion. And so, the idea for Script to Screen was born.

Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine (Kate Winslet) in Script to Screen's video on Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

Can you tell us a little about yourself?

I'm an 18-year-old aspiring filmmaker and creator and sole manager of Script to Screen. I also work at an independent film company run by my 6 brothers and myself called Kinnane Films. After I started creating the Script to Screen videos for my brothers and myself, I decided to post them on Instagram for fun and educational purposes. I had no idea what I was going to do with the account, but people really enjoyed them. So I just kept making videos.

What is the process you go through for choosing a film and its scene to illustrate?

I always try to post great films that I know everybody loves. And I try to select the most moving and iconic scenes because those can be the most fascinating and eye-opening to watch. Just to be able to see how an iconic scene was written before it became what it is today is fascinating to me. For example, the beloved two-minute dance scene from Pulp Fiction (1994) is described in two short sentences: "Mia and Vincent dance to Chuck Berry's ‘You Never Can Tell’" and "They make hand movements as they dance." I find things like that the most intriguing and inspirational because something so simple can become the most cherished and iconic dance sequence in cinema history.

Many actors seem to find it very helpful to see how different performers transform the script. Who do you think is your audience?

I think anyone who loves movies can enjoy these videos because they can show how our favorite filmmakers have their own unique style and ability to tell a great story. Also, I think these videos can highlight something that usually goes unnoticed—the laborious, creative process that is involved in making a film. You can witness how our favorite films started with some words on paper and finished with some gorgeous cinematography, flawless acting, and captivating editing.

Gary Oldman and Kristin Scott Thomas get personal in Script to Screen's scene from Darkest Hour.

Where there any scenes that fans proposed you do that surprised you?

Yes, one of my followers suggested that I post the opening scene to Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds! And let me say, I've never experienced anything more haunting and gripping in my life.

Can you talk about how you chose the scene you did for any of the Focus films on your site: Eternal Sunshine, Lost in Translation, Darkest Hour, Brokeback Mountain, The Pianist, Phantom Thread, Dallas Buyers Club?

The reason I selected those scenes is because I felt they were the most moving and touching ones—something in the story changed drastically or the scene just had some exceptional acting.

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