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Nightcrawler: Hungry Coyote

By Karel Segers

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Have you seen Nightcrawler? Have you READ it? It’s a great movie, from a phenomenal script. I read it long before seeing the film, and loved it so much I was almost fearful of watching the movie. It’s an unusual script, in that Gilroy does away with traditional formatting. Everything is set at night, and sluglines really only state the scenes’ setting. Here and there, big titles jump off the page in font sizes well exceeding the mandatory 12 point, and some titles even use proportional fonts. None of this is revolutionary - the Coen Brothers have long ignored traditional sluglines, and their scripts read fine - but it’s not something I recommend a newbie should do.

LOUIS BLOOM - THE COYOTE

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers an eerily perfect rendition of the ‘hungry coyote’ Lou Bloom. The image of the animal appears in the screenplay twice - at the opening, and again at the mid point. The coyote is a jester, and can not be trusted, just like Lou. He is on screen for only one minute and 15 seconds before we get this: he is poor, resourceful, deceptive and fearless. Soon we’ll also figure out that he has an unrelenting desire to move up in the world.

Because the coyote spirit seemed so important to both Gilroy and Gyllenhaal, I don’t think it is coincidence that Bloom watches Danny Kaye in The Court Jester. And which car sounds like ‘coyote’? (Lou drives a Toyota)

LOU’S LINES

[SPOILERS] Gilroy’s writing is direct, tight and entertaining. The script reads like it was punched out in one breath, a single continuous movement from Lou’s first appearance to his inevitable victory.

As elegant as the screenplay’s action lines may be, Lou’s dialogue reads awkward and unnatural. It fits his character perfectly: at no point does Lou reveal any truth or even humanity. Except for those rare moments when we see him alone.

Lou is always scheming, relentlessly pursuing his goal, mercilessly dragging along his victims. Without malicious intent. It simply lies in his nature. With a gentle smile, he spouts self-improvement affirmations, meanwhile insulting the woman he would like to date. Or would he?

A FRIEND IS A GIFT YOU GIVE YOURSELF

Rene Russo plays “the news director on the vampire shift at the lowest rated station in L.A.” and Lou has her squarely in his crosshairs. He knows that she can bring him where he needs. If he plays it smart, she has no other option. And of course he’ll play it smart.

Nina opens with small talk, but Lou enters straight into battle, arguing his case on the professional and the personal level. He wants her. Nina tries to keep her composure, and states politely that the station appreciates what he does. When Lou’s charm turns into a threat, Nina expresses her disgust … but it’s water off a duck’s back. Lou’s closing line, delivered with a warm, and soft-spoken voice, confirms to Nina that he is a sociopath: “I’m sure you know ... a friend is a gift you give yourself.”

In the script - not in the movie - the next shot says  “A PACK OF COYOTES feeding on an indistinct downed animal ...”

About Karel Segers

Karel Segers wrote his first produced screenplay at age 17. Today he is a story analyst, script editor and producer with experience in rights acquisition, script development and production. His screenwriting classes have trained writers in Australia, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and his clients include international award-winning filmmakers as well as three Academy Award nominees. Karel is the founder of The Story Department and Logline.it!, and he ranks in the world's Top 10 of most influential people for screenwriting on Twitter.

 

Screenwriting Article by Karel Segers

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