#ScreenplaySunday: MONEYBALL by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin

So with baseball on my mind, since it is the Blue Jay’s Opening Week in Toronto (and I work at the stadium), I decided to review ‘Moneyball’ for this week’s #ScreenplaySunday! The most exciting and unexpected treat for me was seeing Mark Shapiro (the current GM of the Toronto Blue Jays) make many guest appearances in this script as the GM for the Cleveland Indians, who was constantly trading with Billy Beane (the main character of Moneyball, the GM of the Oakland Athletics), and even watch him introduce us to one of our largest supporting characters Peter Brand (aka Paul DePodesta, who now works in the NFL for the Cleveland Browns) . Overall, I had a strong love and hate relationship with this script, at times losing interest and expecting an anti-climactic ending, and at others biting my nails as if I was watching a live baseball game! This script taught me a lot more about baseball (and I thought I knew a lot!), and it helped me find some new styles in script writing that I like, and some that I don’t. But it was a very fun script to read, probably because in the wise words of Billy Beane, “How can anybody not be romantic about baseball?”

STRENGTHS:

WRITING STYLE: There were a few subtle writing styles in this script that I liked. For example, the writer sometimes wrote out emotions: “has no effect on him”, “he seems at peace”. Although some actors would not like this because it gives them less freedom, I appreciate any insight into the writer’s intentions in order to perform in a way that gives integrity to the original script.

Another cool style choice was when they write direction: “the tobacco, like a shark that knows it could die if it stops moving, doesn’t throughout the entire scene”. What a cool metaphor right!? This is a really cool physical exercise for an actor and might even help them find the character!

VOICE OVERS: I think it’s obvious now with all these reviews that I am a huge fan of voice overs. One new thing that these writers did was show a point of view shot of what a character is seeing while having a voice over of them on the phone. Or we see a wide shot with a voice over and then all of a sudden we zoom in and find the characters talking

CHARACTER DESCRIPTION IN THE WRITING: These writers put hidden gems of character analysis into the script. For example: “Schott can go from milquetoast to ruthless in a blink and he just did”.

BANTER: The banter and dialogue throughout this screenplay was so well written it had me laughing out loud! I specifically loved when Peter and Billy would go at it, it felt like two people with the same mind just hanging out and talking baseball (which I guess is what happened!).

STORY: Well, it helps that it was true story that’s for sure! But I really just loved the lesson of challenging accepted world views, trusting your instincts, going against the grain, and not worrying if others think you lost your mind. I also loved the message behind the increasing pressures that come with more success, because I know we all feel that in today’s world.

CLOSING SCENE: The closing scene of this movie stole my heart. I loved the action shots of each player and then a legend to tell us what happened to them after that season in 2002. I also loved the image description: “Floodlights switch off and the green of the grass darkens”. This reminds me of October of 2015 and 2016 when working for the blue jays, packing up and knowing this was the end of a great season, and onto the next.

WEAKNESSES:

FLASHBACKS: I’ve heard from a few screenwriters now that flashbacks are an amateur way of telling a story. Unless it strongly moves the plot and story along in a crucial way, flashbacks should often be omitted. I think when describing the events of Billy Beane’s life and doing the film justice as a biography piece, the flashbacks were absolutely crucial and well placed. However, as story development, many of these flashbacks were unnecessary. There were many times in the script that we knew Billy was a former player, and that he wasn’t a good one, we don’t need a full flashback scene to get it.

HOWEVER: the one time flashbacks were extremely helpful especially in this screenplay was when they would play real footage of players while Peter would describe in a mathematical sense why they were good players. I loved this and it taught me a lot more about baseball!

WAY TOO LONG: So even though it was a pretty quick and easy read, at 168 pages, it’s just too long of a film! As a result so many scenes were omitted or combined, and it made reading the screenplay somewhat frustrating because I was given more information than I needed. I learned that ‘filler scenes’ can really distract from the magic of a story!

MORE CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT: I spent a lot of the screenplay wondering what Billy’s deal is. As an actor I ask myself, what is this character’s heart like? What is he most afraid of? What is his biggest weakness? What is he hiding from us? This screenplay made it hard to find out. However, it’s an actor’s job to take a screenplay that might not make it obvious and add that into the character to make the film more interesting. Therefore, this point might actually be a strength from an acting point of view!

MY FAVOURITE SCENE:

This was hard to pick because some scenes were so exciting that they had me actually biting my nails (and I’m not even a nail biter)! But I decided to choose my favourite scene based on the biggest win for our hero, Billy. This surprisingly came near the beginning of the script. Although he is not winning with the people in his world (the other characters), this was a moment where he won me (the audience) over. It’s a simple moment, but such a powerful message that I think everyone should take from this film.

GRADY: “With all due respect, we’ve been doing this a long time”

BILLY: “That doesn’t mean you’re doing it right”.

Simple. Yet so effective.

OVERALL:

I adored this screenplay! It probably helped that I am baseball obsessed right now since it is the beginning of a new season with the Blue Jays, but I had so much joy combining my job at the stadium with my acting career. As always, feel free to send me recommendations for next week’s #ScreenplaySunday, and have yourselves a beautiful week!

With love, Catherine, xo

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