Case Study: Risk-Taking in Screenwriting with A QUIET PLACE

A Quiet Place, Risk-taking, screenwriting, storytelling -

Case Study: Risk-Taking in Screenwriting with A QUIET PLACE

Risk-taking in screenplays can sometimes feel like a financial roll of the dice. “If I do this crazy thing on the page, will someone still buy my script?” But in many examples, taking the risk is why people respond to material.

Shortly after its release, A QUIET PLACE quickly became the comparison title du jour of spec screenplays. It’s a title that comes up a lot when asking representatives or producers what they’re looking for. The danger of chasing that trend is just trying to copy A QUIET PLACE, rather than the spirit with which A QUIET PLACE was written.

The film opens with a prologue where Reagan (the deaf daughter) gives Beau (the young son) a battery-powered toy. Beau activates the toy as the family journeys home. This alerts a nearby creature, and that creature kills Beau.

Period. The kid dies. He’s not coming back, he’s not maimed, he’s dead. And it’s arguably the result of a kind gesture from his sister. If Reagan had not given Beau the toy back in the prologue scene, he would likely not have died.

Consider the riskiness of this choice for the screenplay. A kid dies on what’s probably page 4 of the script. And he dies because one of the main characters does something nice for him. It’s a real gut punch of a twist.

It also sets up the whole movie. It demands the audience take the threat of the creatures seriously, so we always have that sneaking feeling anyone could die at any time. This choice creates emotional scars for all the lead characters, such that they basically spend the whole rest of the movie trying to prevent that from happening again.

Evelyn giving birth to a son and having to safeguard the baby is a natural mirror of the opening scene. And while the audience knows that the baby isn’t going to die, it’s hard not to feel that danger on a gut level, because we’ve already seen a kid die in the opening sequence.

What are some of the riskiest choices you’ve made when writing your scripts? Let us know in the comments below.

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