What ‘The Matrix’ Screenplay Taught Me

October 10, 2012 at 7:19 am

What 'The Matrix' Screenplay Taught Me

XTRA | Top 10 Matrix Moments

Many years ago, when I first started devouring screenplays, I purchased The Matrix: The Shooting Draft.  A couple hours later, my outlook on screenwriting had changed forever.

What The Matrix Screenplay Taught Me

The Wachowski Brothers’ script literally redefined the way I looked at writing screenplays. Why?

Clarity & Detail

A movie as complicated as The Matrix has to carefully toe the line between originality and confusion.

When you are creating something that no one has ever seen before, you can’t assume that people will know what you are talking about.

I wrote and directed movie a while back that was heavily based on my own sense of humor and inside jokes that only my circle of friends understood.  I wanted to see if they would work on screen and truthfully, while it did work, it was a lot harder to articulate in the script.  Once we were on set, I could do impressions and show the actors what I wanted but it didn’t come across on the page.

SHORT FILM | Watch Playing Through

Imagine how challenging it must have been for the Wachowski brothers to describe their mind blowing action film.  Everything had to be clear in their minds and then expressed in writing.  Not an easy task to accomplish.

All Time Best: Top 10 Matrix Moments | Movie Blog

Clarity

INT. COMPUTER SCREEN

On a computer screen; so close it has no boundaries.

A blinking cursor pulses in the electric darkness like a heart coursing with phosphorous light, burning beneath the derma of black neon glass.

Got an image in your mind?

Neo raises his hands and the bullets, like a cloud of obedient bees, slow and come to a stop.  They hang frozen in space, fixed like stainless steel stars.

What The Matrix Screenplay Taught Me

The brothers really did an incredible job describing the world of The Matrix. I truly wish I had the opportunity to read the screenplay before I saw the movie just to see how close my imagination was to their ultimate vision.

Every single line in the film is useful.  Such an imaginative script could have gotten lost in exposition but it’s paced so well.  Each clearly developed idea building on the one before.  Each page showing you more and more.  Above all else, it’s entertaining.  Forget the movie for a second.  The screenplay itself is an entertaining read.

A light bulb went off in my head.  It was time to really think about how I communicate my vision to the reader.  It was time to put more thought into how I describe the worlds I want to see on screen.  Hopefully, it will be entertaining.

Detail

You really don’t have a ton of space on the page to get your movie out of your mind.  With so little real estate you need to make the most of it.  Yet there is a balance between minimalism and detail.

True, you can’t spend half a page describing a new location but you do have to carefully select which elements NEED to be included.  The Wachowski’s screenplay does this masterfully.  Each and every detail you need to know about is on the page.  There isn’t a single line of fat to trim.

This is one of the most important skills a screenwriter has to learn.  The more original details you put into your screenplay, the richer the experience for the reader.

This was another eye opener for me.

Once I finished the script I immediately printed out my latest draft and restarted.  I was still new to the screenwriting craft and every lesson I learned was so epic and wonderful that I owed it to myself to apply it.

The Matrix was definitely a turning point in my screenwriting and filmmaking career.  I felt so inspired after reading that amazing script.  It’s a feeling I chase everyday.  It fuels my need to learn and push myself to become a better screenwriter.

Awesome screenplay.

PS: Find out how the film itself changed the way I looked at movies forever.