a pro script reader ponders movies, reading, writing and the occasional personal flashback

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Screenwriters Don't Know How To Play Bingo

A solid 1% of the screenplays that I read consist of a scene in which there is a bingo game going on, and it isn't the worst idea. If the characters are playing bingo next to each other, it means they are sitting down facing the same direction, so you can get their faces in the same shot. Plus the bingo gives some action to enliven the dialogue scene; while they are talking about killing Rocco or having their meet-cute, there are spaces on their bingo boards to cover, or quirky old ladies leaning into the frame.

Sometimes the bingo scene will pop up in an action sequence (the main character tries to hide in a room of people playing bingo!). More commonly we get it in the type of not-as-original-as-you-think-it-is moment in which the Likable Male Lead goes to see the Female Love Interest at the old age home where she works. She ropes him into reading the bingo numbers to the oldsters, he's a sport, it goes well, he sees the look in her eyes, the old people are happy. And when the seniors go down for their nap, it's cue the wild sex in the catheter closet (okay, maybe not. But the characters are hooked, now, they're in love, because she sees how sensitive he is around the elderly. Cue montage in which they hold hands in the park, or let each other taste their gelato).

The problem is that screenwriters don't know how to play bingo. It's dumbfounding. It's the simplest game in the world, yet every single bingo scene I read is all "I-9!" "B-32!" "O-21".

No, no, no, no, no, no. No.

So as a public service, let me lay it out for you. If you're a screenwriter, tell another screenwriter. If you aren't a screenwriter, tell the guy next to you in the coffee shop, because he is one.

Bingo has 75 numbers, that can pop up in 5 columns, B-I-N-G-O (it isn't just a dog-O). B runs from 1-15. I is 16-30. N is 31-45. G is 46-60. O is 61-75. The letters are absolutely unnecessary in theory -- there is only one 9, and it's B-9. But giving the letters gives the old ladies, the drunks and the chatty a column to focus on, so they don't have to think while playing.

They have an excuse. You don't. No more G-67s! No more N-22s!


At 3:51 PM, Blogger Webs said...

I refuse to surrender "P-51".

At 7:46 PM, Blogger Kira said...

One of my first plays included a play-within-the-play that made reference to a character skipping town on a freighter to Paraguay.

We were well into rehearsal before someone finally clued me in that Paraguay is landlocked.


I left the line in because the play-within was supposed to be a piece of hackwork, but I learned my lesson about research!

At 4:45 PM, Anonymous spyscribe said...

Thank you so much, I thought I was the only person out there who got irritated every time someone in a movie uttered, "N-3."

Really enjoying your blog.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger Fun Joel said...

I am shocked! A solid 1%, you say?! I have never, in all the scripts I've read, seen a Bingo scene! I wonder what other common devices are out there that I've missed!

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Scott the Reader said...

Strange things happen. I remember once I saw "Heathers" and "Cousins" on the same day. Both include scenes in which characters play croquet. I'm not sure that I've ever seem a croquet scene in another movie.

At 9:44 PM, Blogger shecanfilmit said...

Ha! I have a pet peeve that is similar to this. It's when they show an interior and exterior of a plane that don't match. For example, in Elizabethtown, they shown the interior of what is either a A320/A319 or a 737, but the exterior of a 747. Give me a break. And there are no nonstops between Portland and Louisville. Anyone who travels more than a few times a year would know that.

I didn't know that about Bingo, btw. And I used to play Bingo when I lived in Vegas.

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