Crafting the Look

This was written after the treatment, but before we hired on Todd Somodevilla.  As we got our cast and locations lined up our approach changed a bit.  It’s interesting – at least to me – to see where the thinking started. 

What follows is a more detailed document that breaks down each scene into more specific visuals.  It summarizes what’s going on emotionally.  It describes elements not touched on in the script.  And it gives a stronger sense as to how what was laid out in the treatment is going to be executed upon.  Like the treatment this isn’t set in stone, but it gets us a little closer to what’ll eventually end up on screen.

After reading this, you’ll have a better sense of the visual narrative that’s unfolding along with the narrative progression.  While this doesn’t cover every visual element it’s more of a guide – it contains a sketch of each beat’s emotional core.

 

The STORY in VISUALS                                                                                               

We open just as a semi races by revealing a peaceful country road – the sound of the semi cuts through viewers.  It’s unusually harsh (waves crashing, cars getting crushed) – especially compared to the sound of nothingness left in its dusty trail.  As the dust drops back to the ground we see a man next to a pick-up truck full of corn – this is Lew.

Lew is selling sweet corn from his farm.  These roadside stands typically mean all other options have dried up – this is the last ditch effort to make some money.  Lew is comfortably numb, getting by on very little.  He’s sympathetic, but a little broken from life.  One day topples onto the next, slowly chipping away at his soul.  As he sits there he watches the land around him, seemingly soaking it all in.  Men like this speak with their eyes.  Their worn hands reveal more than words ever could.

Across the road rests a scarecrow on its last legs.  Poor guy was forgotten about forever ago – the land is slowly taking him back with the help of the berating sun.  We see Lew in his expansive surroundings.  There’s a familiarity to Lew. In the silence of the road Lew hears the ocean – a worn postcard from Florida watches Lew from inside the cab, clipped to the sun visor.  There’s the faint sound of a wave crashing.

As he sits there, waiting – for a customer, a familiar face, anything really – he hears a sound in the distance.  His face registers something – a change.  Was he expecting this?  After a moment he spots a motorcycle racing across an open field.  His expression remains unchanged – is he scared?  Nervous?  Bored?  We’re uncertain if he even knows the man driving – Linus.  Well, it’d be impossible to tell given that Linus is sporting a ski mask.  Lew turns away, catching the motorcycle in a reflection off the truck’s side view mirror.

Then we’re with Linus – racing across the field.  Our camera takes turn shaking with every bump and then fluid shots, darting just over the top of the tall grass.  Then we get in even tighter and really focus on his face as he races along.  Intensity sweats out of him as the wind beats against his face – every emotion imaginable floods through his eyes.  He’s scared.  Tense.  Adrenalized.  Elated.  His sites are set on a shed, tattered and crumbling apart.

In the distance, sirens approach – fast.  Behind Linus, a trail of dust hangs in the air.  Linus pulls his bike into the shed and waits.  Lew watches the dust slowly settle back to Earth, his eyes wide.  It’s only as the Sheriff is in sight that Linus finally notices Lew and his truck – shit.  He pulls out a handgun and waits.  Even though Lew is watching the Sheriff approach, there’s no way he didn’t see Linus.  We see Lew through a crack in the shed – Linus’ gun in the foreground, trembling.

From the shed Linus carefully takes in Lew’s every movement.  As the sheriff’s vehicle comes into view the final hint of dust disappears.  Expecting the worse, sweat pours from Linus’ face, dripping onto the backpack full of cash at his feet.  What’s clear is that Linus isn’t a hardened criminal.  He watches.  We don’t hear what’s being said – but no one glances at the shed or the field.  The Sheriff indicates Lew’s sweet corn, pats him on the shoulder, and then continues on.  Lew sits alone, looking back at the shed.  Linus stares at him through the crack for a beat…

Then Linus quickly changes his shirt, pants, pulls on a mesh baseball cap, and pushes open a large sliding door revealing.  Parked inside next to the motorbike is a Ford Ranger.  Lew watches from his stoop.  Behind him, fields of corn sway gently in the wind.  Linus gets into the car – a succession of quick close shots.  The bag of money tucked under the seat, the gun on his lap, the door slammed shut, a seat belt pulled on – then he turns the key.  Nothing.

Through the grill of the car we see Lew watching.  Linus turns the key again – his fingers, soft compared to Lew’s, twist the key ever harder.  Nothing.  It doesn’t even turn over.  It’s the silence that’s most maddening for Linus.  Our first dialogue is a curse-filled rampage courtesy of Linus.  From Lew’s POV we hear his muffled diatribe for a couple long seconds and then it stops.

It’s here that Linus and Lew exchange their first meaningful glance.  We push in slowly on Lew and then Linus.  In a quick series of tight shots, Linus is out of the truck carrying his backpack full of cash and slamming the large door shut.  As Linus storms over he flashes the gun for Lew to see.  We pull back with him, our camera handheld and off-kilter.  It’s clear from their body language they know each other.  Lew doesn’t seem scared – though we’re unsure if that’s because he knows better than to upset a man with a gun.

Linus is panicky when he speaks.  Lew is accepting.  There’s a bit of tension starting to bubble – we’ve grown to like Lew.  He’s a simple man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Really, though, he’s very aware of everything.  This is all part of the plan.  Knowing Linus, Lew realizes the more he allows Linus to feel like he’s in control the more likely he’ll listen to Lew.

In a nearby field a cow moos loudly, throwing off Linus’ concentration.  As Lew tosses the sign into the back of his truck our camera is buried in the corn, looking up at Linus and Lew until the sign covers the lens.  As Lew and Linus get into the cab of the truck we’re out in front of them – peering in through the windshield.

The first part of this story is shot with mostly wider lenses.  The sound and editing create a sense of calm that gets shattered the moment Linus comes into view.   There’s a start/stop rhythm to the introduction of these two characters.  Linus lacks patience – that comes through in the way he moves and the way his pieces are cut.  Lew is a very patience man – there’s a more languid feeling when he’s dominating the scene.

This takes us to page 3 of the script.

Lew is very matter of fact in the truck.  Linus wants to get going, but there’s no gas.  There’s a bit of comedic relief as Linus realizes the gauge is at E.  For this exchange our camera observes them through the windshield, a wide-angle lens keeping them in the same frame.

As the truck pulls out we’re in the bed, looking back, the road and shed getting smaller.

We’re outside the truck – in front of it peering in at Lew and Linus.  They drive in silence for a few beats.  Then Lew starts talking – the way someone would chat with a neighbor.  When viewers watch him they’ll wonder what makes him so utterly calm.  Does he know Linus that well?  Is he hiding his fear?  There are multiple dimensions to what could be going on with Lew.  For the section of dialogue on the second part of page three we’ll keep Lew and Linus in the same frame.   This section is all about Lew earning Linus’ trust – keeping things simple is crucial to creating this feeling.  As Linus responds he continually glances around nervously, paranoid.   Oh – I almost forgot – Linus is still wearing his ski mask.

Up ahead we see a gas station from Lew’s POV – through the dirty windshield.  It’s an old fashioned service station.

Now on page 4

As Linus debates whether they’ll stop or not we cut inside the cab.  Linus taps his finger, wipes his brow – he struggles to make a decision.  His responses are quick, stilted, and nervous.  We get the sense he’s about to pop.  Lew, in contrast, stays calm.  His dialogue is a bit slower, more methodical.  Linus glances at the gas gauge again – E.  We see Linus for a beat from inside the gauge – the E reversed in the foreground.  He’s feeling trapped.  Finally he directs Lew to pull into the station.  As he does, Lew points out Linus’ mask.  Linus quickly pulls it off.  From below the seat we see him shove it underneath.

As Lew pulls to a stop we’re outside the cab looking across Lew – Linus holds his gun in his lap.  As he does Lew asks for some money.  Inside the bag we see Linus reach in, pulling out a hundred.  He hands it to Lew – who just holds it.  Looking across Linus we hold a shot of Lew for a beat.

Continuing onto page 5

Linus does his best to stay calm while frustrated with Lew – he doesn’t want anyone calling the police and at this point Lew has the upper hand.  So Linus digs deeper into the bag, struggling to find a 20 and keep all the cash contained.  From inside the service station we watch Lew pump gas.

One thing we note right away about the gas station is that they’re feeling the pinch.  It’s rural – so there aren’t many customers to begin with.  But there’s something else – a sense of desertion to the place.  There are a few too many weeds and the place is in a state of disrepair.  Then we cut in close on the pump as the numbers slowly approach 17.50 – Lew maddeningly clicks the pump ever so slightly until it finally arrives at 17.50 on the nose.  Linus nearly pulls his hair out.  It’s taking every ounce of energy to keep a poker face.

He wants so badly to yell at Lew.  Linus is stuck.  Lew watches the truck as he pays.  While he’s inside another police car races by – Lew smiles as Linus slides down in his seat.  A mostly empty cash register is slammed in.

That sound pulls us into Lew’s cab door pulled shut.  He hands Linus a hot stick and starts the engine back up.  We note the gas gauge float back up part of the way.  Linus holds the hot stick in front of his face – it wobbles back and forth.   Linus’ gun rests in his lap.  Our camera outside the windshield we see Lew glance over at the gun then methodically shift into gear and pull out onto the highway.

From outside the truck we see Linus’ face in the side view mirror – he’s checking behind them.  Our camera in the back of the truck we see Linus peer out the back window.  As he continues to look Lew strikes up another conversation about the hot sticks.  From the front of the truck we see Lew watch as Linus finally takes a bite.  Lew waits for a response…  Linus can tell.  Finally Linus nods his head.

As we turn to page 6 the camera is mounted on the front of the truck – we’re cruising along into the wooded bluffs. We turn a corner and skid to a stop not far from a jack-knifed trailer.  Hay is spilled across the road.  With the hay in the foreground we see Linus swear and punch the dash.

Strolling around the trailer is CHARLIE.  He steps into the foreground of our wide shot and surveys the mess.  He’s too engrossed to notice Lew.  We cut in tighter to Lew as he leans out his window.  As Lew talks to Charlie there’s a feeling of ease to their conversation – it’s calm, quiet. Linus, on the other hand, conveys a feeling of nervousness.  Lew’s emotions are unchanged while Linus wears his on his sleeve.   This scene carries us through page 7.

What comes out of this scene is a feeling of the little guys looking out for each other.  Lew is genuinely concerned with Charlie.  At least that’s how we read the scene – what’s really going on is entirely different.  Confident in the smoothness of his plan Lew takes his time with this encounter.  Linus stares at the bag of money, a piece of his gun, and an open ashtray full of pennies.

As Lew slaps Linus’ leg we cut to Linus’ POV of the exchange.  There’s something off about it – it’s subtle, but something feels a little strange.

Cutting to page 8 we’re now back on the same county road where they started.  Our camera is in the distance, watching them from through the cornfields, traveling with them as they cruise along.  As they pass the shack where Linus stashed his motorcycle we cut back inside the truck and see the shack from over Linus’ shoulder.  Then we cut to a medium shot of the two of them together inside the cab – a shot where they’re equal distance from each other.  This scene plays out pretty simply, the camera drifting ever so slightly across the hood.

This is where Linus develops some sympathy for Lew and his financial situation.

On page 9 we turn around a bend in the road find the two of them back at the scene of the crime.  Our camera trails above and behind the truck for a moment, the chaos still fresh on the streets in front of them.  Then we cut to a pseudo over the shoulder of Lew and Linus, shot from outside the cab.  The camera pans between the two of them.

We see the chaos in front of the bank and Lew’s truck from inside a couple shops – they’re mostly empty and some are shuttered.  Linus notes a couple signs on the windows – foreclosure, for rent, no work, etc.

Through the windshield we see the crowd and various people waving at Lew.  As these moments unfold we cut to tighter shots inside the cab when Linus stuffs the bag under the seat – perhaps our camera is under the seat when this occurs.  When Linus sees the elderly woman we cut outside the cab and travel with them as he smiles and waves – almost in slow-motion.  Then we see her from his POV smiling back in slow-motion, the moment taking on an almost surreal quality.

We see a higher angle of Lew’s truck approaching the scene – probably from a building top or possibly a little fly over.  We’ll see the police cars arranged in strange angles, the lights still going, and a small crowd outside.  It’s a strange occurrence, a robbery like this – so the gawkers are chatting it up.  After a beat, we cut down into the crowd where we overhear some of the conversations.  Lew stares at the bank owner for a long beat, quietly despising him.  The banker nervously sweats as the deputies take notes.

From inside these groups talking we see Lew’s truck passing by slowly until he comes to a stoplight.  Here we cut to a tight shot of the light, then to Linus, trying to mask his fear, and then we cut to the road – empty, not a soul for miles coming down this road.  It’s a frustratingly long beat for Linus.

As we wait Linus focuses on the faces in the crowd, the door to the bank, the banker, the flashing lights, etc.  He gets a little lost for a moment.  Perhaps we see Linus from inside one of the heating vents – creating almost bars around him.

What pulls him out of this trance is TIFFANY.  We’re now at the top of page 10 where Linus’ past is confronting him head on.  This is really our most concrete clue into the type of person Lew believes Linus to be.  Tiffany confronts Linus in a way where we feel tension and underlying fear – she’s put off by Linus’ presence.  Not in a horrified way, but in a way that stands out in this part of the country.

This encounter is captured using handheld cameras.  As Lew drives away we see Tiffany in the rearview mirror approaching one of the policemen.  We cut to outside the truck to a lock-off frame as they drive off.

 

SPOILER ALERT – PLEASE DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THE FILM.

 

On page 11 Linus gets even more paranoid, suspecting the police are definitely going to come after him now.  Inside the truck we continue to shoot handheld, the tension ratcheting up.  Here things open up a bit as we incorporate much tighter shots – the speedometer, the accelerator, the gun, Linus’ eyes, his twitchy finger, Lew’s hand on the wheel, and –

As the truck eases over the hill things calm down ever so slightly.  Linus takes a breath – Lew remains stoic, maybe a little nervous from the near miss.  Although we’d interpret it as him becoming a little unnerved by Linus’ rising tension.   From outside the truck we turn onto another road – the camera hangs out the side, close to the wheels as they turn.

Then we cut in behind the truck as the two relax.  Just then our camera catches the reflection of a light – a cop car pulls out from underneath the camera, approaching Lew’s truck, its sirens blazing.

We slam back into the truck – handheld cameras darting between the Lew and Linus.  From inside the police cruiser we see the POV of the SHERIFF as he approaches the truck – it’s unclear what’s going on inside.   Cutting between the calm of the Sheriff and the chaos inside the truck creates a feeling of dread – it seems like everything is falling apart.  But then Lew – in the midst of the argument – snatches Linus’ gun like it’s a toy.  And everything stops.  The cameras are suddenly steady again.

Cutting to page 12 we see another side of Lew – a confidence we weren’t expecting.  Linus is stunned by this turn – as are the audience.  Our feeling is that Lew is doing whatever he can to defend Linus – he already got him this far.  It’s clear that Lew holds some animosity for the bank – this is the perfect revenge, helping this kid.

In the side view mirror we see the Sheriff approaching the truck as Lew assures Linus.  From over Lew’s shoulder we observe as Linus as Lew puts the gun back in Linus’ hand and he slides it under the seat.  Our camera is calm during this build up.

Then the truck slowly pulls over along with the Sheriff.  As the Sheriff approaches the truck we track with him.  The interaction between Lew, Linus and the Sheriff is covered with a handheld camera, meandering between the conversations.  As we learn this isn’t about the robbery, but a restraining order things calm down a touch.

As the scene continues we turn to page 13.   Although the Sheriff is a smart guy he never really lets on to exactly what he knows.  So as he’s making polite conversation with Lew and Linus he’s also testing their story – but it doesn’t really feel that way.  Our take is that the Sheriff is suspicious of Linus helping out Lew – thought he can’t put his finger on exactly why.  From over the Sheriff’s shoulder he peers at Linus while talking with Lew.  It feels like the Sheriff should be doing something else while talking with these two – maybe he’s wiping out of a scuffmark on Lew’s truck, buying some corn, or kicking the tires.  In this scene Linus finishes his transformation – he’s entirely sympathetic to Lew’s predicament.

The Sheriff feels genuine pity for Lew’s situation – probably puts his hand on Lew’s shoulder or the truck towards the end of the conversation.  As we turn to page 14 the Sheriff heads back to his cruiser – we track in front of him as Lew pulls out behind him.  The Sheriff glances back.  The truck disappears around a bend.

Back on Mill Road the relationship has changed – Linus wants to take care of Lew.  He glances down at the bag full of money.  It’s open.  From inside the bag we see Linus peering down – money blocks part of his face.  Linus pulls it out.  From over Lew’s shoulder we see Linus stuff the money into the glove compartment.  Lew catches him out of the corner of his eye and confronts him.  In this moment viewers should begin wondering which of the two they’re rooting for.  Here we cut to a frontal shot of the two of them, reflections on the windshield obscuring their faces.   After Lew gives Linus a piece of his mind we cut behind Lew and see a car on the side of the road – Lew’s sister.

On page 15 Lew leans across the bench and stuffs the money back in Linus’ bag.  We see this from through the front windshield.  Linus’ protests pull us into a tighter shot of him as he becomes unhinged once again.  From his POV we see Lew pull over, exit the truck, and approach his sister.   Then we cut to a wider shot – handheld, but locked at one position – as Lucille and Lew stroll back to the truck.  We pan slightly with them.  Then we cut to the view through the back window as Linus slides over, making room for Lucille.

This scene could be played a little moodier, but we’ll keep it charming and comedic  – we feel almost bad for Linus as he gets played by these two.  They’re treating him like a kid in trouble.  When Lew starts up the engine we cut to a tight shot of his keys – they’re complete with a rabbit’s foot and a bottle opener.  We cut to the front of the truck as they drive off down the road.

On page 16

The exchange between the three of them – Lew, Lucille, and Linus – is shot from through the windshield with a handheld camera.  Lucille is disarming, like Lew, only more so.  She loathes Linus, but manages – like all good Midwesterners – to cover it up with overwhelming niceness.  She encourages Linus, pretending to believe he’s on a new path.

Looking back this scene will take on an uneasy feeling, as we’ll know that Lew and Lucille are planning Linus’ death.  Whereas Linus will be actually turning over a new leaf, wanting to help these unfortunate people.  As it unfolds this first time we’re caught up in the humor that Lucille doesn’t realize the meaning of what she’s saying.  The comedy comes from the irony of what she’s saying about the bank and the money.  Linus nervously fiddles with the window controller, subconsciously wanting to get out.  Lucille smiles throughout the scene.  Because she’s more the mastermind of this ordeal there’s a feeling lurking beneath her warm exterior that Linus is a bad seed.

Throughout out this exchange we’ll briefly observe the truck cruising down the country road from through the grass and other foreground elements, obscuring our view.  As they pull into the farmyard we cut inside the house, watching the truck pull in from through a window.  When it comes to a stop we’ll see it in a reflection that distorts the image ever so slightly.

Here, we turn to page 17

Inside the home we’re entirely handheld.  There’s beautiful light streaming in through the windows.  Linus is more annoyed than tense – disarmed by Lew and Lucille.  He wants to get away, but not because he’s scared – it’s more like he’s trying to say goodbye to grandparents or something like that.  While there’s an innocence to what’s unfolding.  There’s a bit of unsteadiness as we’re observing it.  We feel something off-kilter.

Our angles are obscured by various foreground elements.  As they talk Linus notes several family photographs of Lew and Lucille.  When Linus takes a drink of lemonade we cut to a wider shot of the scene.

On page 18

We arrive at a general feeling of calm – still observing from this wider angle.  The camera is handheld while Lew and Lucille seem genuinely at ease – which they are as Linus is about to lose consciousness.  As Linus strolls into the bathroom our camera follows him to the door – which closes in our face.  We cut inside as he locks the door.  Then he checks the window, unlocks it and crawls outside.

Outside, we alternate between moving handheld behind and in front of Linus.  Just ahead is Lew’s truck.  Linus inches along.  As he gets closer to Lew’s truck we see him in the side view mirror.  We cut tight on the handle as he opens it, then inches inside.  From over his shoulder we watch Linus pull out the bag and gun.  Then he sticks two stacks of money into the glove compartment.  Like a true Robin Hood figure Linus believes in the goodness of what he’s doing.  Linus closes the door, careful not to make any noise.

As Linus continues along the camera stays handheld with him.  When he passes the barn we briefly cut to his POV as he notices the number 47 through a crack in the door.  We cut to a tight shot of his face and then we cut inside the barn door as Linus approaches.

We cut wide as Linus opens the door, revealing the truth, and gets in close to study the bike.  This is where he staggers slightly – our first clue something’s wrong.  We see him from a wide shot further back inside the barn.  We’re beginning to realize the truth right along with Linus.

Onto page 19

Everything falls apart in this sequence.  While we’ve been operating under the assumption that Lew was innocently guiding the truth is much more sadistic – really, his crime is much worse than Linus’.  Lew masked his true intentions while Linus wore them on his sleeve.  In Linus’ moments of desperation we’re sympathetic to his predicament.

In this scene, however, we’ll keep the point of view fairly neutral.  The truth is, their shared desperation has led these regular folks to turn on each other.  For a beat or two we’ll see an image from Linus’ perspective – as his perception falls apart.  There are bits of tension as Linus makes a desperate attempt to stop whatever’s happening.  But they’re short-lived.

On page 20

…Lew and Linus have their first honest exchange.  There’s a real intimacy – Lew reveals his true self and Linus figures out what’s happening.  This scene unfolds with the two of them in the same shot, Lew kneeling over Linus.  There are little moves to each one – at times, we cut in tight and then pan slightly from one to the other.  For a few beats we see the scene unfolding from Linus’ POV – a distorted, surreal perspective of the situation.  Linus’ last image is of a large barrel getting rolled into the barn – a horrifying realization crosses his face.

Then we cut to another day – the day of the auction.  Our camera drifts through the crowd on a Steadicam – everything seems fluid, but there’s an undercurrent of tension.  The drifting camera gives us the sense that things aren’t quite right, that they’re not stable.  It almost reflects the Lew’s emotional state – there’s a sense of relief coupled with the nagging feeling of what he’s done.

As the Sheriff talks with Lew we keep a little distance, allowing them to be in the same frame.  Lew seems slightly uneasy, but the Sheriff chalks it up to the fact that Lew is losing everything.

Continuing onto page 21

Like a Hitchcock film, we know the truth – we’re stuck wondering if Lew and company are going to get away with what they’ve done.  This scene plays out very simply – the Sheriff playing off of Lew in wide shots.