Screenwriting II — Week 11-12

May 5, 2014

 Greetings everyone,

In class we talked about your step outline, my comments, and your Final Exam  — a  REWRITE of your step outline based on the feedback from me you received via email and the comments from your groupmates on Blackboard.  You don’t have to follow our comments blindly, but read them carefully, see if you agree with them, and try to find dramatic and visual ways to address them. 

Some of you still struggle to understand the difference between SCENES that are BEATS and transitional/passing scenes.  This is important to remember: every BEAT / STEP is a scene, NOT every scene is a BEAT.John Truby’s (The Anatomy of Story  has an interesting and useful advice regarding beats (his term for Step Outline / Beat Sheet is Scene Weave):

“The point of the scene weave is to get one last look at the overall architecture of the story before writing it. Therefore, don’t go into too much detail, because this will hide the structure. Try to describe each scene in one line. For example, a description of four scenes in The Godfather might look like this:

 -Michael saves the Don from assassination at the hospital.

-Michael accuses police captain McCluskey of working for Sollozzo. The Captain slugs him.

-Michael suggests that he kill the Captain and Sollozzo.

-Clemenza shows Michael how to execute Sollozzo and the Captain.”

Put a Structure Step next to a pivotal scene. For example:

Bombs falling. An airplane whooshes overhead, spraying fire. Jack gets off the ground starts to walk away, paying no attention to the mayhem around him. (CHARACTER REVELATION #2  or SECOND PLOT POINT or whatever it is).

Note that the Final /Extra Credit link is now active on Blackboard (left sidebar).  You’ll need to do a COVERAGE of a screenplay for your final take-home exam.  If you want to do an extra credit assignment,  choose a second screenplay (there are four uploaded, unproduced screenplays) on the page and cover it. We’ll talk more about the art of screenplay analysis / coverage in class.

Okay, now on to Shame.

 A colleague provided a link to a streaming video of the film, which you can see for FREE online:  Regrettably, there are no subtitles in this video.  But since you’ve already seen the film, you will pick up many more interesting details on second viewing. And the quality of the beautiful  b&w cinematography by Sven Nykvist is much better than what we saw on the projector in class.

You guys are very discerning viewers and excellent critics. You’ve caught and understood a lot of nuances in the story and the relationship between Jan and Eve.  Even though this is not your typical love story, it is a love story nevertheless.  The lovers are together in the end, but they are miserable together, ashamed to be in the world, ashamed for what they have and have not done. Let’s look at Jan’s and Eva’s character arcs.

We introduce them on a peaceful farm,  hiding from the conflict that’s present in the cities. He’s an indecisive complainer. A rather weak man whose retreat form the city represents a sort of selfish retreat. “It’s better to know nothing,” says Jan. “We can only hope for the best.” Eve, on the other hand wants to know the “news” and is upset by Jan’s escapism, but is quickly distracted by the promise of having fish for dinner and good wine. In a way she too is complicit in the shame that she feels at the end of the film.

Both of them are sensitive people, classical musicians, artists who are supposed to help the world deal with pain. But as the war interferes in their lives, it not only changes the world around them but their emotional world and the relationship between them.

Here are few  important structural moments:

1. Jan and Eva visit their friend, the antique dealer, who’s about to go off to war. He’s wearing an ill-fitting uniform and represents the world that is no more, the world of yesterday, with its porcelain figurines and things of the past.  He disturbs the tranquility of the peace that Jan and Eva think they live in.  This scene starts the story and is the clearest inciting incident.

2. Jan and Eva see the dead parachutist in their backyard and are pounced upon by the rebels who tell them to leave at once. This is the first revelation (Plot Point 1 and the end of Act 1 — it happens about 30 minutes into the film).

3. The midpoint is clearly when both Jan and Eva are interrogated by the current, probably fascistic government. This is where the former mayor Colonel Jacobi saves from the concentration camp and send them home. The relationship between Eva and Jan are more strained now. She’s sick of his cowardice and feels that she has to protect the family, because he seems unable to protect them.  (Note that you may see other reason for the continuing strain in their relationship. This is a complex film and allows for multiple interpretations and requires multiple viewings).

4.  Plot Point II, which marks the end of Act II and comes right after Jan’s lowest point (apparent defeat / ordeal) when he finds Colonel’s money and realizes that Jan essentially “sold” herself to the Colonel. Why? To protect them?  Or maybe because she wants to assert herself with a “real” man, with someone who gets things done, with someone who has power and influence? Like in all Bergman movies, nothing is obvious.  Something not being obvious is different from something that’s confusing or not clear.  Bergman refuses to spoon-feed his audience and prefers that they work with his movies instead.  That’s what distinguishes art from mere entertainment.

5. The final battle is between Eva and Jan after Jan kills the young soldier and takes his boots. When crying she asks him “What did you do with him?” He pushes her away and is willing to go to the boat without her. She despises him now, but drags along because it’s the only way for her to survive.

6. Resolution. The scene in the boat, with dead bodies floating in the water. Bergman’s grim statement about the state of the world and our collective mental health.

The film has been accused by some critics for failing to represent a “real war”. But as Paisley Livingston in her book Ingmar Bergman and the Rituals of Art correctly states: “Bergman’s film is one of the few films…  which does not obscure the fundamental reciprocity of violence and the senseless identities of oppositional  parties. The film directly confronts the impossibility of distinguishing between good and bad forms of barbarism when barbarism implies the destruction of all.”

Watching the movie for the third time, I realized that in this film about musicians there’s no music on the soundtrack. It’s another important point that Bergman wanted to make without hitting us over the head with it.  If you want to add anything to the discussion about the film, please bring it up on Monday.

Your assignment for Monday:

A REWRITE of your entire step outline, based on my and your classmates’ comments.
DUE MONDAY, May 5th no later than 9:30am, in your respective folders on Blackboard.

READ the BREAKING BAD Pilot (Screenplays page). 

Start reading the screenplays and making notes now, so you don’t have to do it all at once later.



Screenwriting II — Week 9 & 10 — Spring 2014

March 29, 2014

Hello there,

A short post this week.
In class we talked about different approaches to writing dialogue. Below are several links to good articles on the craft of dialogue writing.


THIS IS A TERRIFIC MEMO from the playwright and screenwriter David Mamet to the writers of The Unit, the TV show that was popular for a spell. It covers all the important points of drama we talk about in class.

No homework this week. But those of you who wants to read his/her BREAK UP scene in class, please bring the scene with you. Alternatively, you can email the scene to me and I’ll beam it on the screen in class, so we can read it together.

Screenwriting II — Week 8 — Spring 2014

March 18, 2014

Hello everyone,

As you’re working on your assignment — ACT I / Step Outline (aka Beat Sheet) — here are some of the points we went over in class.

Step Outline / Beat Sheet

Step Or Scene?

Movie Outline uses “Steps” instead of “Scenes” which may confuse some screenwriters who are used to
using scenes in relation to film timing and screenplay layout, but the difference is actually quite simple to

A “Step” in Movie Outline really means an “Event” in the progression of your story, and this means that
each step can consist of more than one “Scene”. A Montage sequence is one good example or:
Joe leaves his apartment, gets in his car, drives to the bank.

Although in a screenplay this totals three scenes, in a step-outline it is only one step since the nature of
creating a step-outline dictates that you focus on the main story event and do not get into too much detail.
Unless something big happens to Joe while he is getting into his car, the scene can be described within the
overall event. What then happens when Joe enters the bank is another step, and so on.

Another example could be a car chase. In a screenplay, each location that the cars involved in the chase
pass through is technically a scene, but since we’re dealing with the same story event, the entire chase and
collection of scenes is referred to as a step.

Or suppose your screenplay has your Hero bravely dashing into a burning building to save a child while
other fire-fighters frantically do their best to put out the blaze. Technically, each room your Hero searches
in constitutes a scene, and every time we cut back to the other fire-fighters, they are separate scenes too, but
when planning your story, it is much easier to think of this as one single event and as such, a single step.

Clear now?

Here’s an example  BEAT SHEET-ThelmaandLouise.pdf

Indicate the act and sequence number


Sequence I

1.  Mary enters her office, takes off her shoes, drops down on the couch and begins to weep.

Some people prefer to use sluglines for each beat / scene. And that’s fine too.


Mary enters, takes off her shoes, drops down on the couch and begins to weep.

Here’s another example:

MehdiTime-Beat Sheet .pdf

When you introduce a new character, CAPITALIZE her name. Note that you don’t need to describe the character’s physical appearance, personality, etc. You’ve already done that in your synopsis. You know your characters by now and so do we.

How to Contstruct a Scene:

This is from John Truby’s The Anatomy of Story:


We didn’t get a chance to discuss Avatar. We will do it on Monday.

Happ writing.


Screenwriting II — Week 7 — Spring 2014

March 11, 2014

Okay, so we’re done with the most difficult assignment — The Synopsis. Once you finish the second most difficult assignment — The Sequence Outline,

you’ll look at yourself in the mirror and say: “I just finished two difficult screenwriting assignments. By George, if I’m not a screenwriter, I don’t know who is!”

Now, more helpful information on how to write a sequence outline:

Read this: THE SEQUENCE APPROACH.docx  (this is the page I handed out in class)

And this: 8 Sequences- Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.docx 

This  above is a nice sample written by British screenwriter Brian Robinson.  (Note that you don’t have to indicate the location of your sequence or the theme in the header, next to sequence number. However, it would be great if you could indicated the problem, complication and resolution. But I won’t take points off if you don’t.  You will get extra points if you do, though. Note that the resolution should be appropriate to that particular sequence. In lieu of problem, complication and resolution, you can indicate the Hero’s Journey steps. Again, it’s optional.)

You Assignment: Read the Avatar screenplay (Blackboard). And Vogler, pp. 117-155. 

We’ll discuss both assignments, discuss the art of scene writing, watch some clips and do some in-class exercises. 

See you Monday. 


Screenwriting II — Week 6 — Spring 2014

March 5, 2014

Hello everyone,

Most of you did a pretty good job on your synopsis assignment. Don’t worry about adjusting or changing it now in light of my and your classmates’ comments. You will write another version of the synopsis as part of your Final Project.

But do keep our comments and suggestions in mind as you’re moving on to the next assignment, which is —

The EIGHT SEQUENCES.  Below are very helpful articles to help you undertand how to approach the sequence structure of your story. We will talk more about at the beginning of our class on Monday.

I told you that I would rename the steps in each sequence to fit the Hero’s Journey model. But I’d like to see if you can do it yourself. We’ll compare notes in class.


And here’s an excellent article by Kathryn McCullough

8SEQUENCES-Kathryn McCullough.pdf 

Introduction To Sequence Structure

by Neal Romanek

April 12th, 2010

(this article originally appeared at screenwriting website, March 2010)

I always pat myself on the back for having written a great scene, but writing a great scene doesn’t help you tell a great story any more than getting a great shot helps you make a great film. What makes a shot “great” is what’s on either side of it, its relationship to the larger assemblage of shots. What makes a scene great is how it plays against the scenes before and after it. A scene, no matter how I feel about it, is only useful insofar as it contributes to a larger whole, and that whole is its big brother, the ‘sequence’.

If you’ve never heard of sequences and are now feeling a bit disoriented in the story anatomy hierarchy, just remember: shots make up scenes; scenes make up sequences; sequences make up acts and acts, as we all know, make up movies.

Of all those building blocks, I would argue that it’s the sequence, not the scene or the revered act, which is the most important one in the screenwriter’s toolkit, and the one he or she must come to understand completely and intuitively. Yet sequences are not well understood by most writers, beyond a vague sense that a sequence is a few scenes stitched together for some kind of common purpose.

What’s a good definition of a sequence? Here’s mine: A sequence is a unit of story structure composed of a series of scenes with a coherent dramatic spine. It begins when a character is placed in a state of uncertainty or imbalance – i.e., when the hero has a big problem. It ends when that problem is resolved and – and here’s the key – the solution to that problem creates another, further problem that then begins a new sequence.

So a sequence begins when a character is confronted with a crisis – and a crisis is any situation in which you can’t say, ‘Let’s just forget the whole thing’ – and it concludes when that crisis is resolved in favour of a new crisis. When a sequence completely resolves or eliminates the central problem that began the whole story, then the movie is over.

A master storyteller is one who leads us to believe that each sequence will be the one that will finally resolve or defuse the main conflict of the story, that will solve all the character’s problems, and then surprises us, frustrates us, thrills us, by delivering the complete opposite: an even greater complication that draws us into a new sequence.

Each sequence has a beginning, a middle and an end. Or to frame it in writer’s language, an inciting incident, a rising action and a climax. You can even think of each sequence as having its own mini-story arc. LA-based screenwriting teacher, Chris Soth, calls his seminars on sequence structure, the ‘mini-movie method’ and encourages students to treat each sequence as if it were a short movie unto itself – not a bad suggestion if you don’t take it too literally.

Some screenwriters will construct a ‘beat sheet’, a kind of outline, for their scripts and often what they’re doing, though most amateur writers wouldn’t think of it in this way, is flailing around in the dark trying to find what the sequences are.

When there are troubles with a screenplay’s act structure, the real fault can often be found in its sequence structure. In my own writing, when the story feels adrift and vague – or when Act II just isn’t working – the cause is almost always a lack of clarity in the sequences that make up the film. I run into the trap of overconcentrating on individual scenes, stringing them together like a child’s bead project, without noting how they contribute to making up a larger sequence, and time and time again I have to look at the bigger picture.

Many screenwriters who are aware of and consciously manage sequence structure in their work have been influenced by the teachings of Frantisek ‘Frank’ Daniel who was Dean of the School Of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California in the late 1980s. This is where I learned about sequence structure, alongside many other media creatives whose names are more familiar to you than mine. Frank Daniel delighted packed lecture halls with his analyses of a wide range of films in terms of their sequence structures and many of us undergraduates would sneak into the back of his graduate level courses in order to learn something we knew was invaluable for our craft.

Frank insisted that every complete film story has exactly eight sequences, usually two sequences in the first act, four in the second, and two in the third act. Some say the origin of this eight-sequence template is the division of early feature length movies into reels, physical reels of film, usually around ten minutes long. Reels, typically with two projectors operating side by side, would have to be switched during a showing, and writing films in ten-minute, cohesive sequences then helped keep each dramatic beat of the story contained within its own reel. I have my doubts about this. I tend to think it worked the other way around. I think the reason a ten-minute reel was used in the first place was becausse that was – due to some mysterious quirk of the human emotional makeup – a satisfying length for a single dramatic beat to be introduced and progress to a climax. I believe the storytelling element came first and the technology followed.

I do not have the courage to say that every feature film always has eight sequences, although Frank Daniel used to amaze us by somehow making every film fit the structure. Sticking to a strict eight-sequence feature film model though can be very helpful in trouble-shooting. It encourages us to look more deeply when a story appears to have too few sequences, or to compress or cut when confronted by a plethora of sequences. The world is not literally divided into lines of latitude and longitude but it helps to pretend that it is.

Generally speaking, the better written a movie is, the clearer its sequence structure will be, and vice versa, the clearer your sequence structure is, the better your story will probably be. Films dominated by strong physical action, adventure movies and musicals, tend to have a more transparent sequence structure and lend themselves to easier analysis. Both action movies and musicals will often have set pieces at the climax of each sequence.

Solid sequences and the writer’s facility with them are what make some three-hour movies seem to fly by and some 80-minute movies last eons. Dances with Wolves (1990) is the second longest movie to win the Best Picture Oscar yet it flies by largely because of its rock-solid sequences, each with a clearly-defined tension that leads into the next sequence. On the other side of the coin, loose or vague sequence structure is usually to blame in that bizarre, yet frequent, phenomenon of a movie that is packed with action but is utterly boring and exhausting.

Ask a friend to list their favorite movies and you’ll get a diverse set of responses but it’s a good bet that most of the choices will have in common clear, strong sequence structure, and the very best will have sequences that keep surprising us and keep us guessing, and play in contrast or in sympathy with each other like find symphonic music.

I am an on again/off again David Lynch fan. I can never make up my mind whether I love his work or not. One thing that keeps me coming back though is his solid sequence structure. I may not like what he’s doing on the screen all the time but it’s always presented in a structurally rock-solid, coherent way if you look at the skeleton under the strange and fearsome flesh he puts on top of it. Imagine my surprise – lack of surprise, it should be – to learn when researching this article that David Lynch was a devoted student of Frank Daniel.

How a story is dissected into sequences may depend very much on the analyst’s point of view. Like an isolated, non-technical civilisation that doesn’t distinguish yellow from orange, for example, one analyst might see one large sequence where another sees two shorter sequences.

I’ve included below a simplified outline of the sequence structure of Star Wars: Episode IV (1977), indicating the problem that begins each sequence, and the resolution that ends it and launches us into the next sequence. You might disagree with my breakdown, which is good. Do your own analyses of as many films as you can and don’t worry too much about trying to force a movie into eight sequences. The key is to locate exactly where each new dramatic tension begins, note how the character tries to solve that tension, and then to find exactly where that tension is replaced by a new one.



  •          Problem: The Empire is about to retrieve the Death Star plans, capture the Princess and send R2D2 and C3PO to the spice mines of Kessel – in short, the movie is about to be over.
  •          Complicated by: the droids are captured by Jawas.
  •          Resolution: The droids find safety with Owen Lars and his nephew Luke.


  •          Problem: Luke find a mysterious message from an important person begging for help from someone he might know.
  •          Complicated by: R2D2 runs away.
  •          Resolution: Luke decides to go with Ben Kenobi to Alderaan.


  •          Problem: Luke and Ben have to find a way to get to Alderaan at Mos Eisley Spaceport.
  •          Complicated by: Imperial forces are searching the city for them.
  •          Resolution: The Millennium Falcon escapes Mos Eisley and heads for Alderaan.


  •          Problem: Fly the droids and the plans safely to Alderaan.
  •          Complicated by: Alderaan is destroyed.
  •          Resolution: Our heroes are captured by the Death Star.


  •          Problem: They discover the Princess is aboard the Death Star.
  •          Complicated by: The Princess is scheduled to be terminated.
  •          Resolution: The Princess is rescued.


  •          Problem: They must take the most important person in the galaxy to safety, starting from the bottom of a garbage masher.
  •          Complicated by: Legions of single-minded fanatics are trying to kill them.
  •          Resolution: They escape the Death Star and the Death Star’s sentry ships.


  •          Problem: The Death star is following the heroes to the Rebel Base.
  •          Complicated by: Han is abandoning them.
  •          Resolution: Luke and the rebels fly out to destroy the Death Star.


  •          Problem: The Death Star is going to destroy the Rebel Base and end the rebellion forever.
  •          Complicated by: Darth Vader engages the rebel pilots in his own ship.
  •          Resolution: Luke destroys the Death Star and becomes the hero of the galaxy.


  1. First, a hook to excite the viewer’s curiosity. Then, the exposition answering who, what, when, and where. Show a glimpse of the life of the protagonist before the story gets under way. This first sequence ends with the inciting incident.
  2. Protagonist tries to reestablish the status quo disrupted by the inciting incident, fails, and is faced with a worse predicament. Gulino says that this sequence poses “the dramatic question that will shape the rest of the picture.” This is the end of the first act.
  3. The protagonist attempts to solve the problem presented at the end of the first act.
  4. The solution from the last sequence is seen to fail, and the protagonist tries one or more desperate measures to restore the status quo. The end of this sequence is the midpoint/first culmination/crisis, which brings a major revelation or reversal. The audience should be tempted to guess the outcome of the story.
  5. The protagonist deals with the ramifications of the first culmination. Sometimes new characters are introduced, or new opportunities discovered in the fifth segment. This segment may also deal heavily with subplots.
  6. Last sequence of the second act, and the second culmination. The protagonist has exhausted all the easy courses of action, and directly addresses the central dramatic question. The audience should be tempted to guess the outcome of the story, although the obvious answer may often be a mirror opposite of how the film actually ends.
  7. The apparent solution of the central dramatic question in sequence F shows its problems here. The stakes are raised. The effect of a long dangling cause may occur. The story is seen in a new light, and the protagonist might need to reverse his goals.
  8. The tension created by the inciting incident is truly resolved. Consider this resolution in light of the hints from the first and second culminations. Any remaining subplots are resolved. There may be a brief epilogue. The last sequence may in some way (visually?) recall the first sequence.


Sequence 1: Beginning to Inciting Incident Sequence 2: To the end of first act Sequence 3: Enjoying the new world Sequence 4: Middle of the second break Sequence 5: Building to end of act 2 Sequence 6: End of act two (the lowest point of the protagonist, or a time when the protagonist is forced with a choice and chooses wrong) Sequence 7: Beginning of Act 3 (a misstep, goes back to the things were as a result of a bad decision, etc.) Sequence 8: Climax-End

See you Monday.


Screenwriting II — Week 4 & 5 — Spring 2014

February 25, 2014

Greetings everyone,

Highlights of the past two weeks.

First, congrats to  Robert, David, Amanda, Jennifer, Apolos and Sharah. Good job pitching.

All of you did well. Now the real work begins. Below is the one-page synopsis of Collateral I promised you.
Plus the 12 Hero’s Journey beats for The Matrix.

Your assignment:Do all the assigned reading and be prepared for the quiz.

Group 1 and 2 — your ONE-PAGE SYNOPSIS is due in your respective folders no later than 11:59 PM this Friday, Feb. 28th.

Group 3 — your ONE-PAGE SYNOPSIS is due in your respective folders no later than 9:25 AM on Monday, March 3rd.

Also, several of you have asked about commenting on your classmates’ assignments.  Is it a requirement? No.

What’s required of you is class particiipation. So if you don’t participate in a face-to-face class discussion (you’re shy, not fully awake, too self-concious, etc.),

then you had better use the online platform to make your voice heard, i.e. comment on your GROUPMATES’ work (you can comment on all your classmates’ work,

if you like). Otherwise you will receive a ZERO for class participation when the final grade is calculated.

Here’s a one-page synopsis for Collateral.


Screenplay written by Stuart Beattie

LA cabbie Max Durocher is the type of person who can wax poetic about other people’s lives, which impresses U.S. Justice Department prosecutor Annie Farrell, one of his fares, so much that she gives him her telephone number at the end of her ride. Although he’s good at his job, Max is unable to make a better life for himself. He deludes himself into believing that his now twelve year cabbie job is temporary and that someday he will own his own limousine service.


One night, Max picks up a well-dressed man named Vincent, who asks Max to be his only fare for the evening. For a flat fee of $600, plus an extra $100 if he gets to the airport on time – Vincent wants Max to drive him to five stops that evening. Max somewhat reluctantly agrees. Max learns the hard way at their first stop when a body falls from a third story apartment window and lands dead on top of his cab that Vincent is a contract hit man. Vincent’s main goal, as per his current contract, is to kill five people, one at each of the stops, but he will not let others get in the way of that goal, even if it means killing them, including Max.


Meanwhile, a Detective Fanning is chasing the two, slowly figuring out what is going on. He pieces together several clues involving the people Vincent has killed, determining that the killer has used the same method to shoot them all; two shots in the chest and one in the skull.


Despite the circumstances, Vincent seems to take a liking to Max. When Vincent finds out Max’s mother is ill, he insists they visit her in the hospital. While Vincent talks with the mother,  Max manages to slip away with Vincent’s briefcase containing his laptop and the identity records of his targets. Max throws the briefcase off the bridge onto the highway below, where it’s run over by a truck. Vincent responds by forcing Max to go to the man who ordered the hits and retrieve the information. Against all odds, Max manages to get the information Vincent needs. They now have to complete the final two hits.


Vincent and Max go to a busy night club to kill a heavily guarded target. The FBI, LAPD, and Fanning also show up.  During a big shootout inside the club Fanning finds Max and tries to escort him to safety. Vincent appears from behind and shoots Fanning dead.


Max and Vincent escape the carnage and head for the next mark. By this time Max has reached his breaking point and deliberately wrecks his cab. Vincent crawls out and leaves him behind. A police officer approaches Max to help him but sees the bodies Vincent hid in the trunk. While on the ground, Max sees Vincent’s new computer screen and realizes that Annie is the final target, which explains why Vincent was outside that particular building earlier; he was studying the building’s security systems.

Max overpowers the cop and takes his gun. He races to Annie’s building and reaches her at the same time Vincent does.  A battle between Max and Vincent ensues. Max manages to kill Vincent and save Annie’s life.  He and Annie get off at the next station. The rampage is over. It’s the dawn of a new day.

And this is a Here’s Journey outline for The Matrix.

Ordinary world

Neo works as a programmer for a software company replete with boring cubicles, an obnoxious boss, and indifferent coworkers.
(Why did the writers choose to open the story with Trinity fighting Agent Smith and his cronies? To have a running start and give us a whiff of the magical world. Now we know Trinity can kick ass. It’s a welcome sight at the end of the film when she accompanies Neo on the rescue-Morpheus mission.)

Call to Adventure

“Follow the white rabbit.”  Neo goes to the club with Choi and meets Trinity there.
Trinity claims she knows the answer to “What is the Matrix?”

Refusal of the call

Neo is at work when he receives a call from Morpheus, who wants to help him escape from the agents. But Neo drops his phone and chickens out. He steps back inside and is arrested by the agents.

Meetingwith the Mentor / Crossing the First Threshold

Neo meets Morpheus, who offers Neo a choice between the red and the blue pill. “This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.”
Neo goes for the red pill. He makes a conscious choice to enter the magical world and go on a journey.

Tests,Allies and Enemies

Neo learns about the Matrix and his potential role in it. He learns how to fight and who his friends are.

Approachto the Inmost Cave

Neo is taken to see the Oracle. He’s faced with some of the doubts and fears that first surfaced upon his call to adventure. Is he the One or isn’t he?

Ordeal(Lowest Point)

Morpheus is captured by Agents. Cypher is a traitor. Everything seems lost. Neo chooses to risk his life to save Morpheus.  Trinity comes with him.


Neo chooses to risk his life to save Morpheus.  Trinity comes with him. They succeed in rescuing Morpheus. All three are going back to reality.

TheRoad Back

The Agents pursue them. Only Morpheus and Trinity get back to the ship. Neo is stuck in the Matrix.

Resurrection ( Final Battle / Climax)

Neo fights Agent Smith and is killed by him. But Trinity’s kiss in reality literally resurrects Neo in the Matrix.
The Matrix no longer controls Neo. He controls the Matrix. Neo easily defeats the Agents.

Return with the Elixir

Neo now believes in himself. He’s the One who will end the oppression of the machines.

Screenwriting II — Week 3 — Spring 2014

February 10, 2014

Good job pitching, guys: Peter, Issac, Suraya, Austin, Odin, and Oriel.

Intersting stories and characters. Keep working on them.

Next week (Thursday, don’t forget — same time, same place) we’ll take a break earlier, say, 10:30am, so we have more time for the pitches:

Robert, David, Amani, Amanda, Apolos, Jennifer, Sharah.

Okay. In class we discussed the art of writing a synopsis.  Even if you haven’t pitched your idea yet, you can start drafting your synopsis. Don’t forget that it should be no longer than one page. Hard to do. Especially if you don’t know your story well. But try to do the best you can. I’m confident all of you will rise to the challenge.

Important points to keep in mind:

1. Introduce ONLY your central chracters by names. Protagonist, Antagonist, maybe another important character.

2. Avoid subplots. Concentrate on the main plot only. Remember, you don’t have much room to move.

3. Include the main turning points — plot points and character revelations that move the story forward. You don’t have to indicate where the plot point comes in. Simply describe what happens and how it affect your characters (if it does).

4. Reveal the ending.  We’re all in this together. No point in hiding it from us. We’d rather admire your ability to tell a story than be surprised by your ending 🙂

I included three sample synopses in the attachment below.

Synopses – samples

Your assignemnt for Thursday:

1. Those of you who pitched, work on your stories.

2. Those who are slated to pitch on Thursday, prepare solid pitches (see samples of pitches Week 1 post.)

3. Read Vogler: The Archetypes, Hero, Mentor (pp. 23-49)

See you Thursday.