WEDNESDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

SEX SCENES


Thinking of writing your own FIFTY SHADES DARKER type screenplay? This tip's for you!

Today's Script Tip is RESTRICTED - no one under 17 will be admitted without parent or legal guardian. We're going to be talking about writing SEX SCENES so if you have kids in the room, you may want to cover the monitor.

People always ask me about writing sex scenes (or "love scenes" as shy people call them) - how much should you describe? When is it too soon for your characters to have a love scene? Can you deduct the research from your taxes?

I admit that I have written "love scenes" - actually, they were sex scenes. Back in 92 or 93 I wrote a flick with Playboy Playmate Of The Year Shannon Tweed called VICTIM OF DESIRE that's basically SEA OF LOVE meets STAKEOUT.I wanted to write a spec script that would be easy to make from a production standpoint - limited locations, limited cast, lots of excitement. Erotic thrillers were popular at the time, and as my friend Fred Olen Ray has said: "Nudity is the cheapest special effect". My script was originally titled THE VICTIM'S WIFE and was about an SEC Investigator trying to make a case against a company's CEO who had cut manufacturing costs to increase profit... and this resulted in defective products which had killed hundreds of people and injured many more... and now hundreds of millions of dollars of company assets were missing and our hero thinks the CEO has embezzled the money and is getting ready to leave town. Before our hero can make his case, the CEO is killed in a very suspicious single car accident and his wife is the prime suspect. So our hero reluctantly partners with a homicide detective to watch the (sexy) wife in the event she killed her husband for the embezzled money. One thing leads to another and our hero ends up doing some, um, undercover investigations into the sexy wife... while trying to keep this relationship secret from his homicide detective partner. Every sex scene included the fear of being caught by the partner so there was suspense as well as the, you know, um, nekkid part. The script sold and MGM Home Entertainment was the distributor. So began my career in erotic thrillers. I have no idea whether the popularity of movies like FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY will bring back the erotic thriller, but what was once a hugely popular genre is probably due for a comeback.

But enough about my sordid past...

Let's talk about love scenes...

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The main question to ask about any love scene is: What INFORMATION does your love scene give the audience? You see, a "love scene" really isn't any different from any other kind of scene (except for the nudity) - it's there to TELL THE STORY. If the only information is that they "do it" you can cut away once the audience knows what's going to happen.

If there's additional information, you have to stick around and relay that to the audience. For instance - if they're perfectly matched in bed but can't stand each other when they're not "doing it" you'll have to SHOW how in sync they are between the sheets so that we can see the difference in the way they act when they aren't nekkid. That is the purpose of the scene in that case, so the scene will *focus* on that aspect of the, um, nekkid parts.



BETWEEN THE SHEETS

You know, movies are what we wish real life was... not real life. In that Mark Harmon/Sean Connery film THE PRESIDIO, Harmon and Meg Ryan have sex on the hood of a car! In real life, that car hood was probably really cold on Meg Ryan's fanny, on film it was something we hadn't seen before. Just like with any other scene, a love scene or sex scene needs to be *original*. No scenes we've seen before! That means you have to be creative... and use the naughty part of your brain (you know it's there). Think of locations, actions, acts, partners, attire, and anything else that can make the scene different.

This is also where it helps to tap into the current Zeitgeist - try to figure out what the millions of ticket buyers might find sexy. I remember having a conversation with a producer who claimed he came up with dripping candle wax on people in sex scenes a couple of years before a big budget movie starring Madonna did it. Hey, if you can come up with something that's ahead of the curve that taps into the fantasies of millions of ticket buyers - that's sex scene gold! Of course, I once also had a meeting where a director came up with an idea for a sex scene that resulted in the producer, development person, myself, and everyone else in the room saying "No!" in unison (and the director being replaced by someone less weird). You don't want a "negative zeitgeist" idea!

But make sure your sex scene is original! We've seen a million sex scenes in bed, is there someplace more interesting for them to have sex? Or something interesting about the way they have sex? Or something funny about the way they have sex? What makes this sex scene INTERESTING (aside from nekkid people)?

LOVE RACKS

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When you're writing something like SEA OF LOVE or BASIC INSTINCT the key to those sex scenes is a little thing called the "Love Rack" that James M. Cain came up with in the early-1940s. The Love Rack is the reason why the couple must make love, and the reason why they must NOT make love... and it's the same reason!

In SEA OF LOVE we have a lonely cop who is chasing a Personals Ad serial killer of lonely guys. While undercover on a date, he meets the most fantastic woman. The kind of woman he could fall in love with. So he pursues her off the clock. The more he's with her, the more in love he becomes... and the more evidence he finds that makes her look like the killer! During their sex scenes he's always looking over his shoulder - will she kiss him or kill him?

Here's another scenario - Powerful mobster has sexy wife, so he has his right hand man be her bodyguard... to make sure that men don't hit on her. "If any guy touches her, I want him dead." So our bodyguard is with the wife all the time - that's his job. But being with her all the time, he falls in love with her. Now, the minute they hit the sheets you know they're in trouble. You're afraid they'll be discovered, and the bodyguard guy will be killed. This adds suspense and tension to the sex scenes. So you milk that - make sure the only time they have to do it is somewhere that the husband might discover them. You've added another layer to the scene - suspense!

Okay, was that GILDA or PULP FICTION? Or any of a dozen other movies with that basic plot?

PORNOGRAPHIC DETAILS

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How much detail you go into depends on what information you're trying to get across. You don't need to be vulgar, but sometimes you need to be "hot and spicy". In a film like BASIC INSTINCT the sex scenes are a major part of the story... and you treat them just like any other important scene: you write them in a way to give the reader an emotional reaction. You want a "hot" scene to get the reader hot! That can be accomplished by describing FEELINGS rather than organs. Again, what makes a scene "hot" may be the location rather than the friction. You're writing a studio feature, not a porno film. The hottest scene in BODY HEAT is when William Hurt breaks through a window to get to Kathleen Turner. The hottest detail in the sex scene that follows is when he gently removes her panties... graphic but in no way pornographic.

From BODY HEAT...


INT. HALL

Racine crosses the dark living room fast. As he reaches
Matty, she lifts her arms to match his embrace. They
come together hard and tight. They kiss. And kiss again.
Her hands travel over his body, as though she's wanted
them there for a long time.

They turn once slowly along the wall, into the dimness of
the central hall. Then he rotates her body away from
him, holding her close.

			MATTY
	Yes, yes...

Then she is just nodding. Racine puts his face deep into
her hair, closing his eyes as the smell of her washes
over him.

Matty turns in his arms and kisses him hard. Racine pulls
her close to him and they sink to the floor.

			RACINE
	That's right... that's right.

CLOSE ON Matty's face, a look that might be anguish. She
bites her lip in expectation. Racine moves over her.

			MATTY
	Please, please ...

She pulls him tightly to her, clinging like a drowning
woman.


***

Sex scenes are like any other kind of scene in a film - it's there to give the audience new information about character and story. What is your love scene telling the audience? Why MUST you have it in the script?

Any scene that's not required to tell the story shouldn't be in the script in the first place. That's true for love scenes, too.

Okay, you can uncover the monitor, now!


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