Screenplay 101: THE VERDICT

Inciting Incident 101 – We all know the term – it’s that certain plot point that occurs early on in the story which changes the trajectory for the main character. In other words, it’s what gets the story going. In this scene from THE VERDICT (Screenplay by David Mamet, based on the novel by Barry Reed, and #91 on the WGA 101 list), Mickey confronts Frank Galvin (in the script you'll notice his name is Joe Galvin) about his drinking, and tells him that he's through looking out for him. This situation forces Frank to make a choice to either stop drinking and work on the legal case that Mickey brought to him, or keep drinking and continue on his downhill spiral. And even though it might be easier for a severe alcoholic to simply continue drinking, this latter choice would end the sole remaining friendship Frank has left.

This scene is also a great example of “raising the stakes”, and it's done with just one word change. Note how in the script Mickey says “I get this people to trust you – they’re coming here tomorrow by the way”, but in the final film, the word tomorrow is changed to noon, which raises the stakes for Frank because it is now late morning and he has to pick up his office, which he just trashed, and get it ready for the client, who is due in a matter of hours, instead of the next day.

Finally, the dialogue in this Nov. 23, 1983 draft serves as only a blueprint for the final film. If you watch the movie, you may note the dialogue was refined.  It just sounds better. This could either be that this was earlier draft of the script, or it could be a credit to the two great actors in the scene.

Verdict_1983Nov23_5 Verdict_1983Nov23_6

Here’s the deal: Throughout 2014, we’re posting pages from every script on the WGA’s list of the 101 Greatest Screenplays, as chosen by Guild membership, because we have every one in our library. Sure, we have other scripts that didn’t make it onto the list, either because they didn’t make the cut or because they were produced after the list was generated (presumably SHARKNADO, which we totally have a copy of, is only in the latter category).