Monday, January 31, 2005  

Script Structure - Basic Plot Points

Let me begin by saying. I'm an amateur. Enough said.

What amazes me is that so many other amateur screenwriters try to tackle the craft without the basics. I base my opinion on the many scripts that I've read at peer review sites like TriggerStreet, Zoetrope, and Helium. If you're just starting out like I am, peer to peer reviews can be very helpful. As long as you take criticism with a grain of salt you'll learn a lot about you're writing. After all, how much can another amateur, who knows less, equal, or even a little more than you, tell you what's wrong with your script? They're in, for lack of a better cliché, the same boat you are.

Typing away at the keyboard scene after scene without the basic structure -- just shoot yourself in the foot now. The reviews will be more painful than having a slug of steal split your piggy toe in two. Trust me.

So you have a great idea for a script. The piles of notes next to your computer have taken roots and are ready to bloom. If it's your first, second or even third script, now is the time to fully understand the basic plot points.

The following descriptions and explanations, by no means, are as solid as the stone-carved commandments, but rather a rudimentary guide for plot pointing out a 120-page script.

SETUP: Page 1 - 12
Define the main character/s, the place, time, mood, point of view. What's the story about? Whose story is it? What does the hero want, and who or what is stopping the hero from getting it? What happens next?

What is the central question, the theme, the main issue the movie is going to resolve?

Something that happens to steer events in a particular direction.

CHOICE OF PATH: Page 12 - 30
Based on the new opportunity, the hero begins taking steps toward a general goal.

What event throws hero a curve, forces response or reaction, sets the hero's plan/goal, defines the hero's new pathway for Act II? General goal(s) become specific.

PROGRESS: Page 30-60
Plans to achieve goals are working. There are conflicts but things are going pretty well. Hero is changing, circumstances are changing and stakes get higher.

A small scene with symbolic overtones, showing the character's growth, and giving us a clue to the resolution

Something happens so that hero, if pushing forward and committing, against all odds, to goal, cannot return to where he/she was in the setup. Sometimes, here the external goal has become internal/personal, and pursuing it will change the hero.

A lighter moment, which typically follows the POINT OF NO RETURN. Doesn't further action, but shows how hero is changing, then obstacles start to escalate

The goal becomes even harder to achieve. It looks like it will take everything to do this, harder than thought, but hero wants it more because it's harder.

The greatest setback. It appears that hero may not achieve goal, hero about to give up, but something happens that changes everything, an event that gives a chance at a goal hero didn't know he/she had

Final intensification of the hero's pursuit of the goal, which usually becomes focused here into achieving one specific action. An event occurs that educates the hero, and starts the resolution. Hero may be getting something more or different from what he/she set out to get, hero has learned something and is changed by it, a new complications sets in?

CLIMAX: Page 108 - 114
Hero is close, can see goal, final obstacle, has to give up everything in pursuit of the goal, crisis point where all is in jeopardy, final moment, all or nothing . Hero achieves or fails to achieve the goal, and outer motivation is clearly resolved, often through confrontation with a "nemesis."

THE END Page 114-120:
What is the outcome, resolution, hero's new life?

Tuesday, January 25, 2005  

Oscar’s Favorite Screenplays - 2005

Oscar has given us a lot to think about this year. There really isn’t a clear-cut winner. My front runners, this could change in a month or so, are Finding Neverland and Million Dollar Baby for best adaptation and Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind for best original screenplay.

One note of interest is the nomination of The Incredibles. A rarity for best original, this animated feature grossed 257 million to land at 29 on the all time box office list. Hmmm, I guess I should have seen this one on the big screen.

Over the next few weeks the debate should be far and wide spread over Oscar’s favorites for 77th Annual Academy Awards to be held on February 27th 2005.


Screenplay by Richard Linklater & Julie Delpy & Ethan Hawke; Story by Richard Linklater & Kim Krizan
    Jesse and Celine spent one night together nine years ago, and each has been haunted by the possibility of the life they might have shared. When a novel Jesse has written about the experience brings them together again, they find they have a second chance to recover their lost love.

Screenplay by David Magee
    When writer James M. Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and her four boys, the friendships they develop inspire Barrie to write his classic children's story, "Peter Pan." Barrie is particularly touched by young Peter, who has become depressed and withdrawn following his father's death.

Screenplay by Paul Haggis
    When Frankie Dunn, a fight trainer who runs a Los Angeles gym, is approached by Maggie Fitzgerald, a young waitress who is determined to become a boxer, he at first refuses her request to become her manager. Frankie's friend, Scrap, however, recognizes the determination behind Maggie's dream and convinces Frankie to reconsider.

Screenplay by José Rivera
    In 1952, two friends, Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado, set off on a motorcycle trip throughout South America. It is an experience that will shape the perceptions and philosophy of Ernesto, who as "Che" Guevara will later become a hero and martyr of the communist revolutionary movement.

Screenplay by Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor
    As a wedding gift to his friend Jack, Miles Raymond plans a week-long trip through California's wine country. Divorced and lonely, Miles finds himself drawn to the sympathetic Maya, who works at a local restaurant, while Jack embarks on a pre-marriage fling with her friend, Stephanie.


Written by John Logan
    This biography of billionaire Howard Hughes follows his life from the time of his forays into filmmaking in the late 1920s to his battles with Congress in the 1940s. The film explores his relationships with Katharine Hepburn and Ava Gardner, his pioneering efforts in the field of aviation...and the beginnings of his descent into isolation and mental illness.

Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman; Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michel Gondry & Pierre Bismuth
    When Joel Barish finds himself irresistibly drawn to the free-spirited Clementine, he is stunned to discover that she is, in fact, his ex-girlfriend...and that both of them have undergone a process to have their memories of each other erased.

Written by Keir Pearson & Terry George
    Based on a true story, the film depicts the heroic actions of Paul Rusesabagina, who risked his life to save over a thousand Tutsis and Hutus marked for death during the Rwandan massacre. Using his connections as a four-star hotel manager, Paul cajoles, bribes and blackmails military and government officials in his frantic efforts to rescue 1200 people.

Written by Brad Bird
    When a series of mishaps forces the world's superheroes into retirement, Mr. Incredible and his wife, Elastigirl, settle into a staid suburban existence with their three children. A mysterious offer to resume his superhero activities turns out to be a trap laid by the evil Syndrome, and the entire family must work together to save the world.

Written by Mike Leigh
    Vera Drake is a cheerful, hard-working wife and mother in postwar England who, unbeknownst to her family, sometimes provides assistance to women who want to end their pregnancies. When Vera is arrested and put on trial, the event has powerful repercussions within her family.

Friday, January 21, 2005  

Article: "Be the Writer You Want to Be Now"

A great article on keeping your focus of becoming a successful writer.

"Be the Writer You Want to Be Now":
by Michael Lent

Calling All Screenwriters... Let's Connect

Got a Blog about screenwriting? Let's trade links. Grab the banner, add it to your blog and post a comment so I can visit your site. I'll add a link to your blog from mine. In the future, I'm hoping to create a blog community just for screenwriters.

Thursday, January 20, 2005  

Movie Review: "National Treasure"

I saw National Treasure this weekend. My first impression... worth the ticket price. Entertaining, but not overwhelming. Director Jon Turteltaub did a nice job with this one, considering his budget was enormous, I assume. It's hard to beat what I believe is his best film, Phenomenon (1996). I loved that one.

It seems, now a days, you really can't go wrong with a Nicholas Cage flick. Not his best performance, yet worth the effort. One highlight of the film has to be the ever so vibrant Jon Voight. He turns his minor role into to something special. The character relationship between he and Cage jumps off the screen in this film, however small.

The other cast members, Harvey Keitel, Sean Bean, Diane Kruger and Justin Bartha all compliment Cage bringing a bit of believability to his character. (To find out more about each actor/actress search the IMDB using their name.)

If you loved the Spielberg Indiana Jones flicks, you'll love National Treasure. Don't get me wrong, I'm not comparing the two films, rather commentating on the scripts pace and rate of revelation. Both scripts force the action. Those of us, who love it, can never get enough. A technical comparison of scripts wouldn't be fair to the writer(s) of National Treasure, Jim Kouf and his accomplices. The plot structure of National Treasure keeps you on your toes guessing, where is this damn treasure? Clue, after clue, after clue... keeps a subtle intensity to the film and makes it hard to get up and get some more popcorn. You might miss a clue. I liked that about it. It kept me in my seat. Writer objective accomplished. However, the story lacks in a few areas that all of us amateur screenwriters focus on so much.

If you've seen National Treasure and liked it, some of the other projects Kouf had his hands in worth seeing are, Snow Dogs (2002), Rush Hour (1998), and Operation Dumbo Drop (1995).

National Treasure is a must see in the theater. If you wait to rent it you'll miss out on a fantastic ride that no home theater can replicate. Don't worry about the script, it's not an Oscar winner. Go into it thinking roller coaster and you and your date will have a great time.

Thursday, January 13, 2005  

Article: "Writer's Block"

Article from

To expand on how to get back into your script, from the New Years Resolution post, here's a great article with tips to overcoming writer's block. "Writer's Block"

Tuesday, January 11, 2005  

A New Years Resolution, Easier Said Than Done.

Every year, around the holidays, I find myself deeply enthralled in the script that will launch my career. Every year that script has to be set-aside to labor over the chores of present hunting. Yes I use the word hunting because it's never easy. Mundane at times. It's like everyone is at the same fishing hole, a.k.a. the mall, trying to find the perfect spot to reel in the big one, a.k.a. the present. I'd rather be at home writing.

The News Years Resolution is always the same. Get back into my script. How do you get back into your screenplay after taking two months off?

The best advice I could possibly share is to think small. Start with reading over your draft a few times to get the story flowing in your mind again. Run through any notes that you may have written down. You know the notes you wrote on that new stationary ya' got this year. The notes that have eggnog stains on them. It's ok; no one needs to know that you put a little too much brandy in it.

Once you have a handle on the big picture again, write, write, write. If it doesn't make sense that's ok, no one will know. With so much time away from your story, your writings bound to be a bit squeaky. Editing will fine-tune any sloppy copy.

If all else fails, put your latest script aside and start a new one. You'll have plenty of time in the future to come back to it. You've got about another 300 days till the hunting season begins again. A lot can be accomplished with your News Years resolution as long as you stay away from the brandy. I know, the latter of the two is easier said than done.

Hope everyone had a great holiday season this year.

Friday, January 07, 2005  

The Beginning of The End

Or one may think so...

Where to begin? I guess I'll just say Hi, skip away and learn more about blogging. At least now I have a place to share my views about screenwriting.

Yes, I have a lot of them.