Screenwriting Tips RSS

BREAKING BAD, Goal, Motivation, Protagonist, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, Sympathy, Three Pillars -

There are three pillars to keep in mind when crafting story in such a way that the audience can engage. These are: Goal, Motivation, Sympathy. Goal is simply an understanding of what the protagonist is trying to do. This should be the engine of the A-story; our story is about the protagonist pursuing the goal. If we don’t even know what the character is doing, then instead of story it’s just incident; stuff happening. There is no plot or momentum. If the audience can’t perceive or understand what the protagonist is trying to do, it’s easy for them to get...

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cinematic narrative, IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT, non-verbal communication, PANIC IN THE STREETS, Sidney Poitier, visual medium -

There are two kinds of non-verbal communication: Between the characters, and between the film and the audience. To the former: I have recently been watching or re-watching older films, one of them being the extraordinary In the Heat of the Night. It’s readily apparent why this movie swept the Oscars that year. One element that readily stands out is, of course, Sidney Poitier’s performance as Detective Tibbs. It’s instantly apparent that, as a character, this is a quiet and thoughtful man, reserved to the point of stoicism. But he’s always thinking; he observes what’s going on around him, listening closely,...

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adaptation, best-selling book franchise, comic book, HARRY POTTER, LORD OF THE RINGS -

There are some genres and paradigms that have a realistic chance of getting set up on a spec script, and others that often need an underlying property. That is: adapted from a novel, comic book, remake, etc. Perfect example: Back when I hustled scripts for a living, several execs told me they were looking for a young adult fantasy adventure project; basically, Harry Potter. Lo and behold, I found one, and immediately called them. All of the conversations played along the same lines: “Great, send it over!” But then: “Wait, it’s based on a book, right?” When I said no,...

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I recently had the pleasure of seeing Everything Everywhere All At Once and The Northman. If we only look at the surface, it would be hard to find two more disparate films. But digging a little deeper reveals that these movies are actually (and surprisingly) quite similar. Without going into spoilers, the primary thing these movies share is both sets us up for one kind of story by plot point one, and then continues to make revelations that subvert our expectations while still paying off the goods of their respective genres. In Everything Everywhere All At Once, a person our...

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elevate, intelligent characters, JURASSIC PARK, motivation, set-up, undeserved misfortune, unforeseen complication -

I’ve read a lot of scripts in which the core set-up is predicated on the characters being dumb and doing dumb things. In some genres (comedy, horror) this is usually fine, and perhaps even a plus. But generally it’s cheating; forcing stupidity onto the characters is an easy way to get the story ball rolling. The stronger approach is to elevate the set-up, and the way to do that is to make the characters as intelligent as possible. We can still get the story ball rolling, but instead of relying on easy choices, now we have to look for new...

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