Sometimes less is more. Screenwriters have proven that a story can be equally appealing and successful with plentiful characters and locations or with just a few of them.
Films set in closed spaces require a different development as the interactions between characters, or perhaps their thoughts and reflections, become practically the only thing that moves the plot forward. Some filmmakers have actually made a habit of turning space scarcity into an advantage.
Claustrophobia is another factor to consider in these stories. Many films have explored the effects of confinement on the human mind in different environments, and used the resulting tension as a device for character progression. Das Boot brilliantly captured the nerve-racking ride of the crew aboard a war submarine. The Mist reinforced the idea that we too can become monsters when pushed to the limit, and Buñuel added a surrealistic flavor to that same idea in The Exterminating Angel.
It is a big risk for the screenwriter to venture into a story with such limitations. Making the most out of minimal resources is probably one of the biggest challenges in filmmaking. But the reward can also be huge: authors like Kevin Smith, Vincenzo Natali or Rodrigo Cortés earned immediate prestige by taking on that task and proving that the talent goes further than the budget.
These are some of the best scripts that are set in a single closed location (or almost):
(1957) 12 Angry Men
(1975) Dog Day Afternoon
(1981) Das Boot
(1995) Crimson Tide
(2002) Phone Booth
(2006) United 93
(2007) The Mist
William Goldman is not just a screenwriter, despite the fact that he has had enormous success in the field. Goldman is a writer of all sorts- novels, non-fiction biographies and even how-to books that have sold in record numbers. He has received a Lifetime Achievement Award for his astoundingly touching screenplays and for the ideas that he created that changed cinema.
As a novelist, Goldman was responsible for writing at least two of the most widely respected and loved stories of the American people. One is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) which inspired the love that America still has with Westerns. The other was The Princess Bride (1987), a complete 180 for Goldman to do. From the desert landscape of the Western film, he jumped to the classical enchanted surroundings of a fairy tale.
As far as screenplays go, Goldman has shown his flexibility in adapting to different genres with ease. For the horror movie fans, he was responsible for the Stephen King adaptation of the novel Misery (1990) which is still emulated and joked about to this day. He diversified into the romance district when he wrote such films as Hearts in Atlantis (2001)
and Year of the Comet (1992).
Without a doubt, Goldman is a prime example of a writer who did not put himself in a box. Unlike other writers who generally stick to one genre or another, Goldman gave himself the freedom to experience worlds from all different
Screenwriters should take note of Goldman’s actions and realize that screenwriting is an art of experience. The human life is full of ups and downs, and this effects what the screenwriter thinks like and writes about. This is not something to be ashamed of, but is an opportunity to grow in different directions as a human being and as a writer.
- (2003) Dreamcatcher Script [For Purchase]
- (2001) Hearts in Atlantis [Transcript]
- (1999) The General’s Daughter [Transcript]
- (1997) Absolute Power Script [PDF]
- (1996) The Ghost and the Darkness Script
- (1996) The Chamber
- (1992) Chaplin
- (1992) Year of the Comet
- (1992) Memoirs of an Invisible Man [Transcript]
- (1990) Misery Script
- (1987) The Princess Bride Script
- (1986) Heat Script
- (1978) Magic
- (1977) A Bridge Too Far
- (1976) Marathon Man [Transcript]
- (1976) All the President’s Men Script
- (1975) The Great Waldo Pepper Script [For Purchase]
- (1975) The Stepford Wives
- (1972) The Hot Rock
- (1969) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid Script [For Purchase]
- (1966) Harper
- (1965) Masquerade