The Words on the Page



Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón

May 2012 Script

Drama, 69 pages

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!" - Ryan

Directly under its title on the cover page, Gravity tells us it's "A Space Suspense in 3D." It's an interesting inclusion as I instantly know what I'm in for. If I was a reader looking for a sci-fi piece or for a story in outer space, I'd definitely start reading. I can almost see loglines on cover pages becoming a trend.

The father-and-son Cuarón team certainly fulfill their promise of a "space suspense." While the script is a quick 69-page read, a lot happens. There are plenty of visuals, moments of intricate work by the characters on screen, and silences. The final film clocks in at 91 minutes. Due to all of the action, the page-per-minute expectation doesn't fit this script, but I think the script is exactly the length it needs to be.

Although it isn't specified, I would guess that this is a shooting script or even a "For Your Consideration" script. (Each awards season, many studios will make the scripts of films in the running for best screenplay available.) As such, it closely mirrors the produced film, and I think the writers made a number of smart choices throughout.

For the opening, it seems that we spend about a page and half just looking at the shuttle and outer space. Although we hear discussion through voiceover, the first mention of physically seeing someone doesn't come until page 3 when "MATT KOWALSKI, a veteran astronaut commander on his last space mission, spacewalks behind the shuttle." We hear the protagonist, Ryan, in voiceover from page 1, but we do not physically see her until page 5. This is different from the way most movies start -- filled with characters, action, and visuals. However, as this is a suspense piece, one filled with moments of silence, this setup helps get the audience into the frame of mind (and the rhythm) necessary for this film.

One line that had a big impact on me almost read like a throwaway. On page 16, Matt says, "Half of North America just lost their Facebook." This was one of the most relatable things in the movie. I've never been to outer space, but I've definitely had my internet connection go out. It immediately resonated and had me thinking about how small annoyances on Earth could be caused by catastrophic events in space. It seems like a nothing line, but it drew me further into the story and lent perspective.

A lot of this piece is Ryan, on her own, lost in space, fighting for her life. It could have been silent, but the writers keep Ryan speaking throughout the film. I did not notice a single page of just action. The dialogue kept me engaged and helped illustrate Ryan's mindset. On page 25, the constant speaking was justified:

Ryan: They can't hear us.

Matt: We don't know that. That's why we keep talking. If somebody is listening, they might just save your life.

Because of this, I never felt it was odd that Ryan spoke to herself. It was simply part of the world.

Gravity is a highly visual film, and that component definitely came across on the page. On page 46, dramatic irony was employed when we, the audience/reader, knew Ryan was in trouble before she did: "She doesn't see the debris coming toward her." Similarly, instead of having Ryan whine about the cold, we saw it for ourselves on page 52: "A tear falls from her eye, freezes, and floats." Gravity successfully immersed me in its world. I could see the story in my mind's eye, and I rooted for Ryan throughout.

#Drama #SciFi #Film

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Writing for film, television, and the stage is, in my opinion, one of the most difficult - and most rewarding - art forms. The language needs to be visual and evocative as each script must achieve two important tasks...
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