ambiguity, confusion, mystery, THE FLORIDA PROJECT, TOTAL RECALL -

Ambiguity in storytelling is rewarding but tricky. It’s rewarding because, when handled well, we can draw the audience into the narrative. If engaged, they wonder what’s going on and why. Like the characters, the audience actively thinks about the story, examining “clues” (literal or figurative) and making guesses. Mystery as either a storytelling device or a genre is driven completely by ambiguity. Without ambiguity, there is no mystery; we know “whodunnit.” However, ambiguity can also be tricky, because it involves some work to correctly pull off. I have read a lot of spec scripts that engage in only a single...

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GROUNDHOG'S DAY, NOMADLAND, protagonist's journey, ROBOCOP, set-up, setting, THE FLORIDA PROJECT, THE MATRIX, thematic statement, TRUMAN SHOW -

Recently, I was working on a script rewrite. Most of the notes I had gotten were fairly straightforward, and I thought turning it around would take perhaps a week at most. But then I realized… wait, we’ve never figured out our themes; the script doesn’t yet have a clear thematic statement. This is really basic, foundational stuff, and it didn’t occur to me until late in the development process. That’s because it’s very easy to get caught up in the spinning gears of plot and character. But the themes are just as important, because this is the true “what this...

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