Making a Scene With Dan Ames
Dan Ames is a friend I met on Twitter. You know how every once in a while you’ll meet somebody you just click with? Well, Dan was like that for me. Dan is a guy’s guy who writes – and writes some pretty great stuff from what I can see so far. It seems Dan and I have much in common. A love of thrillers, guns, alcohol, a good steak and maybe even some AC/DC in the background. One of these days I’m going to do a book tour and swing by the Motor City for a visit with Dan. We’ll spend some time at a shooting range, have a few beers and grill some steaks. Then I’ll ask Dan why he never became a cop because he’s that cool.
WARNING FOR THE GIRLY GIRLS: The following has strong language and the links are graphic.
Do You Have A Moment Or Two?
Before he became one of the world’s most successful and prolific thriller writers, James Patterson was a creative director at an advertising agency. This fact always struck a chord with me probably because in my day job I’m a creative director at an advertising agency, too. And, like Patterson, I write crime fiction and thrillers. He just happens to have a sold a few more books than me (wink wink).
One of Patterson’s claims to fame from his advertising days was that he had a hand in the famous advertising slogan “The Kodak Moment.” Even though Kodak has since struggled as a company, the line was a great positioning strategy and had a long run as Kodak’s themeline.
I was thinking of Patterson when I stumbled across the film JOE KIDD the other day. The reason I thought of Patterson is that the film has a couple of great moments, or scenes, or whatever you want to call them. And for me, whenever I read a work of fiction, or see a film, all I ask is for a couple of great moments. If the bulk of the story is okay, but there a couple of really great scenes, I walk away pleased, for the most part.
So then I started thinking of some of my favorite moments in other films. Now this is by no means a list of what I think are the greatest scenes in film. Far from it. These clips just have a particular attraction for me, especially in the area I most like to read and write in, namely, the action/thriller genre. Here they are, in no particular order:
1. JOE KIDD
I think it’s no big surprise that JOE KIDD was written by Elmore Leonard. There are a lot of great moments in this film, all of them pure Elmore. I could have picked the scene where Clint blasts the guy in the bar with a shotgun while casually drinking a beer.
But this scene is my favorite. Throughout the flick, one of Robert Duvalls’ bad guys “Mingo” sulks around looking like a badass. He’s got this huge rifle that he and Duvall’s gang use with arrogance and impunity. So in this scene, Clint rids the film of Mingo once and for all. Yeah, Clint doesn’t look all that comfortable assembling the rifle, but I just love his expressions throughout the whole scene.
2. THE PROPOSITION
I don’t know if you’ve seen this movie, but if you love great action and killer writing, this Australian flick starring Guy Pearce is loaded with good stuff. This scene in particular is three great moments in one. I love the absolute shock of the spear going through Guy Pearce’s chest, then I love Pearce spitting out blood, and then the second shock – the native getting half of his head blown off.
Directed by Michael Mann, COLLATERAL is one of my favorite action flicks. Cruise is great as psychotic hit man “Vincent” and Mann does an amazing job capturing the style and spirit (or lack thereof) of Los Angeles.
What’s great about this scene, in particular, is how we as viewers experience that wonderful inner conflict about the anti-hero. We kinda love Vincent, his confidence and no-bullshit attitude, yet we also don’t like him because he’s ruining the life of Jamie Foxx’s character and we all know “Vincent” plans to kill him at the end.
In this scene, some citizens hear Foxx’s calls for help but instead of rescuing him they further victimize him. It pisses us off, and when Vincent comes out, well, we’re all happy to see him take care of business.
4. THE DAY OF THE JACKAL
The Day of the Jackal is one of my top ten thrillers (the book, that is) of all time. This film is really quite dated, and for the most part doesn’t hold up, for me anyway. Something about Edward Fox and his silk ascot, those lame karate chops, well, I laugh now when I watch it and that’s not a good thing for a thriller.
Still, one scene holds up and it’s such a great one. No dialogue at all. The Jackal has this little flimsy gun he’s had custom made, a few bullets, and a melon. He paints a little face on the melon, shoots it, adjusts the scope, shoots again, adjusts, then slips in the “exploding” bullet and blows the fuck out of the melon. I couldn’t find the entire clip, but the exploding melon happens at about the one minute mark in the video I’ve linked.
5. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
Again, one of my favorite action/thriller/crime flicks. And, like some of the other films I’ve listed, there are so many great moments in this story that I couldn’t list them all. But if I had to pick one, I absolutely love how in this moment everything we need to know about our protagonist is beautifully illustrated by his grace under pressure in this scene.
As a writer, I sometimes think of the stories I create as trying to string together as many great moments as I can. These were some of my favorite moments created by other storytellers, what are some of yours?
Dan Ames is a writer living in Detroit but you can find him here, too: