Screenwriting II — Week 2

September 18, 2013

Posted on: Wednesday, September 18, 2013


In class we discussed John Truby’s  SEVEN ESSENTIAL ELEMENTS of a good story (J. Truby: The Anatomy of Story)

1. Weakness and need: a hero with a weakness (Max in Collateral is timid and indecisive) and need (has to learn how to stand up for himself and be more assertive. )

2. Desire: the backbone of the story that drives the hero (Max wants to get away from Vince and stay alive in the process).  Note that DESIRE is not the same as the NEED.  Desire is on the surface and need is something the main character is not aware of until the end.

3. Opponent: The person or persons who against our main character. He either wants the same thing as the main character or tries to prevent the main character from getting what she wants. Collateral has one major force of opposition — Vince.

4. Plan: heroes who want something need a plan of action (in Collateral, the plan is forced upon Max by Vince, until the middle of the film when Max hurls Vince’s briefcase over the railing and onto the highway below; in Thelma and Louise, the plan is much clearer and is introduced at the very beginning of Act II by Louise — She’s going to Mexico and hoping Thelma will come with her. )

5. Battle: the battle is the CLIMAX of the story. The main character fights the opponent or forces of opposition.  In Thelma and Louise the women battle the cops. In Collateral, Max has a shootout with Vince on the train.

6. Self-revelation: the hero realizes her NEED, what she needed to have all along but wasn’t aware of it. In Collateral, Max realizes that he can be assertive and stand up for himself.  Thelma is the one who goes through a real change, so the self-revelation is given to her. She chooses death rather than live for the rest of her life in captivity, which is what she was doing at the beginning of the story.

7. New equilibrium: in light of her experiences, our main character looks at the world in a new way.   In Collateral, Max is with Annie. Because Thelma and Louise is a tragedy, there’s no New Equilibrium.

Your Assignments:

COMMENT on your groupmates’ work. Leaving comments is the largest part of your CLASS PARTICIPATION percentage of the final grade. Be sure to leave the comments during the first few days of the submitted work, that’s when they are useful, not two weeks later.If you want to comment on the work of your classmates from other groups, that’s great. One of the reasons I created groups is so you don’t have to read and comment on everyone’s work – just your groupmates’.

Read COLLATERAL SCREENPLAY (on Blackboard). Is it different from the film? How? Prepare your pitches. Everyone should be ready pitch and discuss his/her story on Monday. YOUR PRESENTATION AND QUESTIONS should not exceed 15 minutes. Concentrate on the main character and his/her journey. Use the seven steps discussed above to help you. This helpful tidbit is from SCRIPT magazine:

 Focus on revealing the essential elements of your story. 

  • Who is your HERO or protagonist?
  • What is that character’s EVERYDAY LIFE at the beginning of the film?
  • Why will we feel EMPATHY towards your hero?
  • What OPPORTUNITY is presented to that hero at the 10% point that will get the story going?
  • Into what NEW SITUATION does that opportunity take your hero?
  • What specific visible goal or OUTER MOTIVATION are we rooting for your hero to accomplish by the end of the movie?
  • What CONFLICT will the hero face that makes achieving that goal seem impossible?
  • What are two ANTECEDENTS to your screenplay – recent, successful films with the same genre, tone, and potential market as yours?

Let me know if you have questions.