Butter (2011) written by Jason Micallef, is a screenplay that gained some press back in 2008 after it won the Nicholl Fellowship from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the highest-regarded Fellowship in screenwriting.
The comedy-drama story is about a young foster girl named Destiney who attempts to win a rural butter sculpting competition and…
…it is by far the BEST SCRPT I have read (excluding Chinatown, because cmon). In fairness, I have only read ~10ish full scripts and done partial reads of ~20 others.
Regardless, this is totally bizarre because the story is over-the-top and the characters are wack. But it works. I’ve given this a few minutes of thinking (all I can really handle if we’re being honest) and there are two reasons I think the script works well:
- Author Voice – It’s just masterful, really. The best way I can describe it is that the author adds another, sort of macro, voice to the story. Does the author think the idea of people caring about butter sculpting is dumb? Yea, but they also allow us to get into the minds of the characters, really feeling their emotions and wants/needs. It’s shocking that I found an early-draft amateur screenplay about butter more readable than Saving Private Ryan or 10,000 B.C.
- Dialogue – The dialogue is very strong. The jokes were hit-or-miss but mostly hit. How about these lines– HAYDEN: Butter drama down at the Moose Lodge… Hayden takes off on his bike. The other kids look to each other… then take off too.– That’s like 25 words and they are easy to visualize, straightforward, and funny and there are endless examples of writing like this in the script.
The screenplay follows a linear progression of time (besides the voiceovers, which it uses well), and I believe borrows Truby’s Four-Corner Opposition to increase drama, which it has loads of in addition to butter (I’ll see myself out with that one).
Were there spelling errors? Yea. A few scenes hardish to follow? Yea. Vulgar and seemingly unnecessary racist and ableist language? Yea, and that’s the worst part. But the screenplay worked. I know it’s 15 years late but well done.