Thursday, April 16, 2009

Screenwriting: Lecture 1

Last week we covered:

Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win by fearing to attempt.
- William Shakespeare

STORY by Robert McKee
20 MASTER PLOTS by Ronald B. Tobias

Other Recommended Books:
ON WRITING by Stephen King

Making Choices

Screenplay - Act - Scene

Screenwriting compared to other forms of writing

In many cases the reader is aware of characters thoughts, feelings, memories, hopes, dreams, etc.
Great for expressing internal conflict.
Reader can take on multiple points of view.
Action occurs in mindscape of dramatic action.

Audience becomes 4th wall.
Characters talk or express their thoughts, feelings, memories, hopes, dreams, etc.
Action occurs in LANGUAGE of dramatic action.

Visual medium.
Story told in pictures, dialog, description all placed within context of dramatic structure
Linear = form = structure = beginning, middle, end

Plots that share certain characteristics

Character Goals
The desire to fulfill a need.
Obstacles stand in way of need
Obstacle is often a character flaw
Flaw often exists in back-story

Spielberg said that in the best stories someone looses control of their life and must regain it.

Layers of Conflict
Outside / Action Story
Indiana’s desire to discover the Ark of the Covenant.
Inside / Emotional Story
Indiana’s feelings for Marion.

Types of Plots

Plot Driven Stories
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Shawshank Redemption

Character Driven Stories
Citizen Kane
There Will Be Blood
Edward Scissor Hands

Types of Plots
Character wins
Character loses
Character sows own seeds of destruction
Character grows by doing the right thing
Character grows up
Character learns
Character fails to learn
Character declines / falls

Form not formula
Form = Structure
Formula = replication, imitation
Structural components a can be rearranged
Beginning, Middle, End
Birth, Life, Death
Sunrise, Sun up, Sunset

Style is the perceived measure of deviation from a standard or from what is perceived as “real.”
Learn the rules first then you can break them.

3 Act Structure
Act I
30 pages long
Setup story, dramatic premise, situation, relationships, environment
Act II
60 pages long
Obstacles that keep character from achieving dramatic need.
All drama is conflict
30 pages long
Succeed or fail
Resolves story

Plot Points
Any incidents, episode, or event that spins the action into another direction and is used as a transition into each successive act.
Main plot points occur at the end of Act I and the end of Act II.

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Action Story
Character Flaw: Indy’s obsession with Archeology
Emotional Story
Character Flaw: Indy chooses archeology over romance

Catalyst kicks things out of balance
Catalyst leads up to the Big Event
Catalyst reveals something about the main conflict
Foreshadowing, 伏線
Setting things up for a payoff later
Creates unity in story
Indiana hates snakes

Action Story
Catalyst: The Nazis are on the verge of discovering the Ark of the Covenant.
Emotional Story
Catalyst: His old flame Marion has the key to the Ark of the Covenant.

Action Story
Plot Point 1 / Big Event: Indy obtains the key to finding the Ark.
Emotional Story
Plot Point 1 / Big Event: Indy is stuck with Marion.

Major event that fully commits the character
Point where all seems lost

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Action Story
Pinch: Indy and company are buried alive in a tomb.
Emotional Story
Pinch: Marion is kidnapped by the Nazis.

Action Story
Plot Point 2 / Crisis: The Nazis obtain the Ark and intend to open it.
Emotional Story
Plot Point 2 / Crisis: Indy must choose between destroying the Ark or saving Marion.

Everything on the line
Showdown is bigger than Big Event
Unity of Opposites ensures character plots will cross

Raiders of the Lost Ark
Action Story
Showdown: Indy chooses not to see what is in the Ark.
Emotional Story
Showdown: Indy and Marion are both captured but Indy insists that Marion not look at what is revealed by opening the Ark.