Spice up your movie dialogue with the put down technique

Did you know that a flat movie dialogue is one of the Top 7 Deadly Flaws of a Bad Screenplay?

And it's one of the main reasons for a screenplay to get tossed instead of read ?

One of the 13 rules to write original dialogues talks about the use of dialogue techniques.

Today, the put down technique.

How it works, and when to use it.

Who Wants to be a Millionaire show              master Prem Kumar about the put down movie dialogue technique

Put down movie dialogue technique - 101

Whatascript interviews an expert to get to the bottom of this movie dialogue technique.

Meet Prem Kumar, the "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" show master character of the screenplay Slumdog Millionaire, written by Simon Beaufoy.

What a script!:
Mr Kumar, what's this put down movie dialogue technique about?

Oh dear, oh dear, we are lucky to have a man of obvious screenwriting experience for this interview. What do YOU think?

Is putting down about A) belittling, B) complimenting C) appreciating or D) loving someone?

What a script!:
I don't think it's complimenting ...

Based on your extensive movie dialogue technique knowledge, right?

What a script!:
So I guess ...

Remember, you have three lifelines if you're not sure of your answer- Ask the Audience, 50/50 and Phone a Friend...
Dammit! Forget about them - we're not in the studio.

So, what's it to be? "A, B, C, D"? final answer, my friend?

What a script!:
A. Belittling. Final answer.

Computer-ji "A" lock kiya-jaye.

Guess what? You've just won the right to ask me another question.
You've got the luck of the devil, yaar, I'll give you that - it was a very difficult question.

What a script!:
Okay. Can you give us an example of how you use this movie dialogue technique?

Oh I see, you are one of those screenwriting-boys with a penchant for examples? Examples, the dream of so many who try to comprehend something that goes beyond them...

But alright, I'll give you one. Take the first time I introduce this little tea maker, Jamal, to the audience of the show.

     INT. STUDIO. NIGHT.                                               ...on the set of Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Prem     leans back in his chair, a man at home in his     surroundings. Jamal sits opposite, frozen.                              PREM               So, Jamal, tell us a bit about               yourself.                ...                             JAMAL V/O               I work in a call centre. In               Juhu.                              PREM               A Phone-basher! And what type of               call centre would this be?                              JAMAL               XL 5. Mobile phones.                              PREM               Aha! So, you're the man who               rings me up every single day of               my life with Special Offers,               huh?                              JAMAL               No, actually, I'm an assistant.                              PREM               An Assistant Phone-basher?      A raised eye-brow at the audience. Amusement ruffles     through them.                              PREM (CONT'D)               And what does an Assistant Phone-               basher do, exactly?                              JAMAL               I- I get tea for people and-                              PREM               - a chi-wallah! Why didn't you               say?       Laughter in the audience.      
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What a script!:
What's the exact purpose of this movie dialogue technique?

Every word out of my mouth is designed to talk this chi-wallah down, making him small, worthless in the eyes of the whole of India watching.

It's all in service of conflict is at the very heart of a screenplay.

What a script!:
That's also what the Colonel Jessep (red. from A Few Good Men, written by Aaron Sorkin), said as well when we interviewed him about the 5 movie dialogue functions.

Ah, this good old Nathan. Does he still eat breakfast 80 yards away from 4000 Cubans who are trained to kill him?

Oh no, I forgot - he's in his little jail right now - while I enjoy living in a super sized mansion, a/c in every room, two kitchens, a gym and a screening room. And sixty million viewers.

Anyway, for 5 five more minutes of my time, I've got a next question for you.

Which of the 5 movie dialogue functions do I fulfill in above example?

Is it A. moving the story forward,
B. revealing my powerful and charismatic character and having the tea fetcher reveal his true nature of being hesitant and weak,
C. communicating information,
D. creating conflict or
E. calling forth emotions?

What a script!:
I don't think you call forth emotions ...

What? of course I do. Ninety-nine percent of the audience find very satisfying and amusing how I treat this uneducated village boy.
And one percent - probably from the same village as the Juhu boy - find it unfair. Again, emotions. And conflict.

From the very start you have a very strong protagonist, me ...

What a script!:
You're not the protagonist - you're the antagonist.

Well, well, well. We've got a screenwriting expert, here now. Excuse me!

In any case, the people who know something about movie scripts including the audience, they root for me and a bit for this Jamal boy.

And they get I will rightly do everything I can to stand in Jamal's way of becoming a Millionaire. Everything.

And Jamal will attempt every ruse - even cheating and making fools out of the Mumbai Police Force.

Our opposition creates even more conflict. And more emotions.

What a script!:
By the way the answer to your question about the movie dialogue functions is: A.B.C.D.E. Final answer!

Apka final jawab? Ladies and Gentlemen, our savvy reporter has done it again! A.B.C.D.E Is right! Incredible!

What a script!:
Yes it is - my turn now. Is there a particular way to use this movie dialogue technique?

No. But there are different forms to it. From belittling to humiliating the person.

I'll give you some more personal examples to illustrate my point. Do you have something to note them down?
Example 1:

                              PREM                So, are you ready for your first                question for one thousand                rupees?                               JAMAL                Yes.                               PREM                Not bad money to sit in a chair                and answer a question. Better                than making the tea, no?                               JAMAL                No. Yes. No.                               PREM                No. Yes. No. Apka final answer?        

See how I just made a fool of Jamal?

Example 2:

                              PREM O/S                For four thousand rupees....the                national emblem of India is a                picture of three lions. What is                written underneath? Is it...                ...A) The truth alone triumphs.                B) Lies alone triumph. C)                Fashion alone triumphs. D) Money                alone triumphs.       Prem shoots a mock puzzled look out to the audience      eliciting giggles from them.                               PREM (CONT'D)                What do we think, Jamal? The                most famous phrase in our                country's history. Maybe you                want to phone a friend?                               PREM                The audience has chosen. And,                whaddya know? Ninety-nine                percent of them think the answer                is A). The truth alone triumphs.                What do we think, Jamal? A                hundred percent would have made                me a little more reassured,                maybe....       Prem shrugs, makes a show of examining his computer.      Suddenly fixes him with his eyes.                               PREM (CONT'D)                Are you married, Jamal?                               JAMAL                No.                               PREM                Well, don't despair, there's                someone out there who thinks our                national motto is "Fashion alone                triumphs". You two could be very                well matched.       Audience laughter. 		

Noticed how I just humiliated Jamal?

Example 3:

			                              PREM (CONT'D)                Okay, Juhu boy, you've had a                good run. Take your Mother to                Khandala and eat some chiki. 		

And in this final example I just reduced Jamal to a series of cliches.

A bit like if I was calling you and your team parachute journalists... Anything else?

Other movie dialogue techniques:

Don't miss these related articles:

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Picture and screenplay extracts:
-- "Slumdog Millionaire" - Anil Kapoor (Prem), Dev Patel (Jamal), Simon Beaufoy (screenplay) Anthony Dod Mantle (cinematography), Danny Boyle (director),

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