A classic scene to mess up is the interrogation scene. The authority(ies) goes into a room with the a suspect(s) to get information from them. After watching a number of shows with this scene in them and how they treat the scene one can see how easy it is to drop the ball. Truth is that shows more than most demonstrate this for two reasons. First depending on the premise you might see this scene almost every episode. That’s a lot of times to have to innovate the same thing again and again. Secondly is the character personalities. In real life things like this are pretty standard in their handling. There are a few variations and throw in different personalities. If you were to watch a pair of detectives interrogate suspects all day for a month you’d notice that it’s essentially the same every time. You stick to a formula that works. In television and movies, however, we get to decide if we want to see that. So if you just do the same thing over and over again ad infinitum, tedium will set in. You’ll lose the interest of your audience. In a movie it can take the person out of the movie completely and recapturing that can be a task. Television is even worse, because they can simply change the channel and you may have lost them forever.
Aside from the repetitiveness inherent in the scene in general are all the cliches to also watch for. Good cop Bad cop, is not a technique employed by most professional interrogators. It is a ploy mostly used by the movies to give some dichotomy to a scene thats fairly strait forward. The smart-ass suspect who is confident, because they know you got nothing on them is another big cliche. Like all things of course cliche can still work is done in an entertaining manner. Somethings just have to be. For example, with little exception there are always rules in writing any scene which are always going to be there. These things can in their very nature lead to cliche. For instance the bad cop, good cop scenario is normally based on the buddy cop story-line. It is a normal thing to have the “buddies” be very different, which causes conflict and drama which is entertaining to watch. Gravity, four walls and a roof, human beings, English (In america), chairs, windows. All these things can be used in different combinations and seem to be stupid to even mention. Unless your looking into the very nature of what makes a scene cliche and how it seems to flow in particular paths. Some fundamental realities can lead to familiarity, even while being obvious to the point, with out them it would seem odd. Keep these things in mind when watching any scene next time you think has a great potential to have cliche permeate it.
Int – Afternoon
15 x 12′ room. Metal 5′ square table in the middle. Metal bolted chairs. Two on the side with the entrance door, two on the opposing side. Large two way mirror on the wall beside the door.
Detective Red – late 30s suit and tie
Detective Olga – early 40s pant suit silk blouse no tie
Suspect Wendell – late 50s dress pants white shirt no tie or jacket
suspect sits in the chair, hands cuffed together, feet cuffed to the chair legs, Detective Red enters the door followed by Olga. Detectives place a dark brown folder down on their side of the table and place cups of coffee pm either side of the folder. The detective red paces about their side of the room a bit, seemingly preoccupied. Then he approaches the table.
Red: Ok we have you on video leaving the residence at 10:37 pm. We have you getting into the car in the lot across the street. We also have you being caught by a red light camera two blocks down from the residence, when another car ran the light in front of you. So all I need from you is a confession, it will greatly help your case
Red takes out a digital recorder and places it on the table between them
Red: I’ll get this all transcribed, all you’ll have to do it sign it
Wendell looks down at the recorder then looks over at the file, leans forward a bit and sits back and says nothing.
Olga: I don’t think he understands, does he not speak English maybe? Perhaps we can get him a translator?
Red: You speak English don’t you Wendell? your just dumb, isn’t that right Wendell?
Olga: If we can’t get anyt-
Red: He’ll talk, he just needs the right motivation
Red open up the folder and spreads out some of the half dozen pictures on top of the written statements below. Images of a family massacred in their own home, body parts missing in some cases, brutal slaying either way.
Wendell leans forwards again and examines the images and smiles, then sits back in his chair again
Red: I have to tell you Wendell I’m a bit surprised. Most killers are so proud of their work they can’t help but start talking about it as soon as they have been captured. They want everybody to know all the gruesome details. You, however, don’t seem to want anybody to know about this, get it buried on page 11 of the paper.
Olga: Does the paper even have a page 11 anymore?
Red: that’s a good point, you know they might just run out of ink before they even decide this is news worthy. Just another dead family int he neighborhood, whats that fifth this month? I lost count.
Olga: Well with the war between the Jink, and Tabble gangs going on near there, it seems there’s another body almost daily right now.
Red: Can you imagine how Bundy, Gacey, or Gein would have felt about having their thunder taken by drugged up thugs?
Olga: I doubt they would have stood for anything like that, I mean your talking about a higher class of killer there
Wendell starts to frown and strait a bit against the chains that bind him to the chair
Wendell: What would you know about it, what have you ever created with your own hands? What have you ever done that so truly represents the human soul? You’re nothing, and nobody and you only see what I show you.
Red: Well, well Wendell are you trying to tell us you has something to do with these killings? You’re saying they aren’t gang related?
Wendell: All I am saying is that you wouldn’t know the difference between art and the funk in your underwear detective
Red gets upset and starts towards Wendell and Olga grabs him by the arm
Olga: He just wants to get to you
Red: You know I took a trip to Paris once, saw all sorts of museums and exhibits. Never once saw a dead family on display
Wendell: But you saw oil paintings, charcoal sketches, sculpture, wooden reliefs, even architecture
Red: Sounds about right
Wendell: There is no one form of art detective, in fact I suspect if somebody smarter then you hadn’t pointed out to you that, those things were art, I bet you wouldn’t have even know what it was. Just some dumb waste of time.
Olga Grabs Red’s arm again as he strains against the pressure
Red: You listen hear you sick bastard, I know these guys didn’t butcher people for their art, you maniac
Wendell: Do you now. Did you know that artists like Michelangelo used to cut up cadavers so that they could see the inner workings of the body. The muscles,the bones, the ligaments, the guts. All so that they could better represent the human form more accurately.
Red: I’m going to represent you a little more accurately with my fist in a second you piece of-
Olga pulls Red back into a corner and looks into his eyes.
Olga: You’re letting him get to you. You need to go out anf blow off a bit of steam. We’ll deal with him again in a few minutes. Let him cook a bit in the situation, now that he knows what we have on him and what he wants out of all this. I need to make a few calls then we’ll go back in, in 5 ok?
Red relaxes and nods resistantly to Olga. Olga walks over to the door and holds it open for Red to exit. Red stops for a moment at the table
Red: Your time is running out. consider this, the chair, or a prison cell and maybe some wacko will write a book someday. That’s whats on the table here. Cooperate, or don’t, but either way you’re going down.
Red then exits the room and Olga turns to the suspect
Olga: I’m not sure why you didn’t want a lawyer present, but my partner is right. Your times running out.
Olga then exits the room letting the door close behind her.