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Screenplay, part 1

By Pseudonym in Media
Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 07:57:06 PM EST
Tags: Movies (all tags)

This is the first in a series of articles looking into the craft of screenwriting. I'm not sure where we will end up. Maybe we can encourage someone to write a screenplay. Maybe we will all end up writing one together. Maybe we'll just all learn to be more educated movie audiences.

Let's not get ahead of ourselves. If you love movies, and you want to learn more about what makes them tick, read on.

Screenplays that suck

A friend of mine is a reader for a local production company. I once remarked to him that rarely do people outside showbusiness get to see bad screenplays, as the ones you find in the media section of your local bookstore tend to be very good ones. After offering me a few hundred, he commented that there is one thing that 99% of the bad screenplays have in common: They have no story.

What's a story? That's not an easy question to answer, and it will require a few articles to get across the general ideas, so we won't even try to answer it succinctly now. We might as well as well deal with the two most common misconceptions, one is committed by novice screenwriters and the other is committed by seasoned screenwriters.

The novice mistake: A story is not an idea

Picture this: A director has an idea that he wants to make a movie with nazis in it. A producer has a picture of a room full of crates. These are ideas. These two people locked themselves in a room for two weeks with a screenwriter, at the end of which they came out with a synopsis for the film we now know as Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It's not always so obvious as this. Many would-be screenwriters seem to have the impression that they can write a script based only on an idea. This is similar to the impression that many had during the "dot-com" era that they could get venture capital for an idea. (Many did, of course, but that's another story.) Venture capitalists don't pay for an idea, they pay for a business. Similarly, producers don't pay for an idea, they pay for a story.

The expert mistake: A story is not "Hollywood", and a story is not "art house"

The stereotypical "Hollywood" film has exciting action, stunning visual effects, clever one-liners and no substance. The stereotypical "art house" film has beautifully cinematography, lavish costumes, a magnificent score, subtle allusion and no substance. The "substance" in this case is a story.

"The idea of story is like the idea of music. We've heard tunes all our lives. We can dance and sing along. We think we understand music until we try to compose it and what comes out of the piano scares the cat."
-- Robert McKee, Story

Where stories come from

Given that stories are subtle, it's probably best to adapt an existing one. Note this does not mean you should make an "adaption", that is, taking an existing novel, stage play, historical event or whatever and turn it into a film. In fact, for the beginner, this is an extremely bad idea, because it's much harder than coming up with something original. There are several reasons for this, but the most important for the beginner is that it constrains your thinking too much. The temptation is there to make it too "faithful". It takes an experienced writer to know how to keep, say, a novel adaption "faithful" and still make it a good screenplay, as opposed to a good novel. Don't try this to start with. Write an original screenplay instead.

What I mean by adapting stories is best illustrated with a few examples.

Fairy tales are a particularly good source of story material. Take Cinderella. It's the story of an abused and misunderstood woman who, by various means, gets to outshine those who oppressed her. Every geek's fantasy, surely! Indeed, most modern teen movies are based on Cinderella. They feature a kid who is not in the "in" club, who turns out to be better in the end. Many even have a "ball" scene (at the school prom).

The Three Little Pigs is the basis of most serial-killer films. One notable exception is Psycho, which is actually based extremely closely on Little Red Riding Hood. The "wolf" even goes to the trouble of dressing up as a woman.

Classic plays, novels and so on are excellent sources of stories. Shakespeare plays are one of the most popular. It need not be as obvious as Baz Lurhmann's version of Romeo and Juliet, or Ten Things I Hate About You (based on The Taming of the Shrew). Consider Disney's animated film The Lion King, which is a loose adaption of Hamlet, or Othello, which has been used for several films based around the topic of prejudice, especially racism. Jane Austin or Bronte sisters novels are good sources for romances, such as Bridget Jones' Diary, which is basically a straight adaption of Pride and Prejudice.


In each article in this series there will be homework exercises. For some exercises, I will ask you to post something as a reply to the article, and others you should do on your own. The "on your own" part will probably be to see a movie and notice some things about it. Please do this! You will learn a lot from this, I promise you that much.

The collaborative exercise is to suggest a story. Use the pattern "[existing story] for [new scenario]", such as "Cinderella for ballroom dancers" (Strictly Ballroom) or "Rumplestiltskin for rich businessmen" (Ransom). Post your suggestions below. The highest moderated suggestion will become the story that we develop in future articles in this series, within reason. I may veto an idea if I think it will be infeasable. For example, a story set in Mediaeval Romania may require too much research for a collaborative exercise.

The "on your own" exercise is to see a movie that you haven't seen before. It need not be in the cinema. You can hire one or buy a video/DVD if you want, or watch it on TV, but if you choose this one, please ensure that you see it without commercial breaks, because for this exercise, timing is critical.

Start by looking at the trailer, movie poster or DVD/video cover. What does it tell you about the movie? There will be a "tag line" or "log line". (Example: The log line from The Matrix is "The future will not be user friendly".) This is usually not written by the screenwriter, but rather by the marketing department. How does that set you up for the mood of the film?

Now start watching the film. Check your watch when the movie starts. Check it again when you've made a decision whether or not you're going to like this film. How long did it take?

Next time...

In part 2 we will look at the structure of a screenplay with reference to the ideas that people have thought up in response to this article.


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What genre should our film be?
o 1960s B-film horror 17%
o Spaghetti western 15%
o Blaxploitation 15%
o Something for Wil Wheaton, since he needs the work so badly 41%
o Britney Spears music video 10%

Votes: 78
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Screenplay, part 1 | 61 comments (49 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
Good and bad screenplays (5.00 / 1) (#3)
by bayankaran on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 11:14:17 AM EST

The screenplays for most of the good films can be read like a novel...examples are Pulp Fiction, screenplays of Kurosawa, Satyajit Ray, Kiezlowski etc.

But there are exceptions like Rushmore.

Also starting from an idea is not a 'bad idea'. The writers should have the skill to develop that idea into a story.

Your effort is laudable. But I would also suggest reading some good screenplays as a starter.

Meanwhile I was forced to read a really horrible script. I had to translate into another language. Later talking to the writer I realised he was faithfully following Script 101.

Some screen plays... (none / 0) (#9)
by steveftoth on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 06:01:10 PM EST

are still in the writers head, which is ok if you are also the director like Wes Anderson.  Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums were both constructed to such a level of detail that was to me verging on insanity.

Every samll detail of every main character in both those movies was worked out by the director well in advance.  If you watch and read the extra information avaliable on the DVs for each, there is a ton of sketches, and extra materials that were ready before shooting began.  He even had the songs that were going to play during the key scenes already picked out.  Which is something most writers never do (or have control over but that's another topic).

Just my thoughts as an industry outsider.

[ Parent ]

Sure (none / 0) (#16)
by Pseudonym on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 07:53:50 PM EST

Starting from an idea is not a bad idea. You're absolutely right on that one. The problem is when the idea is all you have.

As for reading screenplays, we'll get to that in a little while. Many people (and I find this odd, but then I've been reading screenplays for my own enjoyment for ~20 years) find that screenplay format is sufficiently alien that they spend a lot of their time deciphering rather than enjoying the work.

Movies, in the end, are meant to be watched, and I believe that you can learn a lot just by watching films intelligently. Then, when we get to read actual screenplays, we can do so with a bit more sophistication than we can now.

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[ Parent ]
Improv (none / 0) (#27)
by endah on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 07:40:50 AM EST

I'm not sure Rushmore is such an exception.  Good films often have the same Writer and Director - and from 'behind the scenes' stuff, it would seem the script is still being worked on whilst filming.

Further to this, when different writers and directors are involved, not only might the director be considering which scenes to include and which to remove, but there may be improv, or ideas garnered from rehearsals (not that rehearsals are all that popular anymore).

Speaking of rehearsals and improv, Mike Leigh relies on them - he doesn't consider a script finished until the movie is finished.  He's certainly not the only one, either.  BBC commissioned a Sylvia Plath film, but the original director quit because he wanted more improvisation whilst the BBC want to remain absolutely faithful to her journals.

[ Parent ]

wow (2.50 / 2) (#11)
by dr k on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 06:24:41 PM EST

I'd say the more typical novice mistake is the fact that one is a terrible, terrible writer. Bullshit Hollywood writing techniques aren't going to help. That's not "craft".

Destroy all trusted users!

Some wise thoughts (4.66 / 3) (#38)
by zocky on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 06:29:16 PM EST

Good technique is not going to make a bad artist good, but bad technique will make a good artist bad.

Learning of craft enables practicing of art.

I mean, if coal can be converted to energy, then couldn't diamonds?
[ Parent ]

My suggestion: (4.57 / 7) (#13)
by cr8dle2grave on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 07:42:50 PM EST

Archetypal Story: The Orestia Trilogy by Aeschylus because it is, IMHO, the most profound story ever told.

Novel Scenario: A refugee family of Polish Jews living in New York during the mid-fifties.


Agamemnon: Thought to have died in a concentration camp, the Father arrives in New York to the shock of his family. He was an abusive husband and his war time experience has made him even more violent and unstable.

Clytemaenestra: I'd suggest that the Mother be made a more sympathetic character than was Clytemaenestra. She is remarried to a man met in America and is happy in her new life with a kind and caring husband.

Electra: Taking a cue from Euripides, the daughter is mentally scarred from her early childhood experience and is in the care of her Mother.

Aegisthus: A caring man who is not Jewish.

Orestes: He is an angry and impetuous young man serving in the US military who has recently turned to religion. He is disapproving of his Mother's marriage to a "goy". If he was named Joseph it would easily allow for a thematic interpenetration of the Biblical archetype of the prodigal son.

Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera

The purpose of these articles... (4.00 / 1) (#17)
by Pseudonym on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 08:03:42 PM EST

I notice a theme in the comments so far, so I'll answer it here.

By the end of this series of articles, you will probably not be screenwriters. As one wise person used to say, "you can't put in what god left out".

Hell, I'm not a screenwriter either. What I hope you will be is a) appreciative of the craft of screenwriting, and b) a more sophisticated viewer of films.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
A story is a promise... (none / 0) (#18)
by broody on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 08:20:02 PM EST

As soon as I read the introduction to this article the first thing that came to mind is 'A Story is a Promise'. The film section of the site is here.

Definately something on my someday/maybe list.

~~ Whatever it takes
I'm working on... (3.00 / 5) (#19)
by faustus on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 08:36:18 PM EST

...A Linux Zealots Quest For the Desktop. It's about 15 minutes in and he's still on IRC. Could be good.

My story (1.66 / 3) (#20)
by elsorro on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 10:19:08 PM EST

I would take the New Testament and set it in our time. Jesus would be an alien. He goes around healing people and doing good. But hey! not everyone digs that and he is turned in to the FBI as a terrorist because some guy overheard him in a restaurant and could not quite understand what he said. But hey! he looks different he must be a terrorist right? After being arrested he tries to call his dad. Prayers are obsolete so he uses a tweaked cell phone. He dies in jail, but comes back from death after 3 days and leaves the earth flying on a Yugo. After that, he comes back to join Osama, kills the world and judges all of us...

Y´all have seen this one, haven´t ya? hehehe

Heinlein already did that (5.00 / 1) (#34)
by tbc on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 02:02:51 PM EST

It was called Stranger in a Strange Land.

[ Parent ]
Sci Fi Narcisso (3.33 / 3) (#21)
by elsorro on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 10:24:09 PM EST

I would take Narcisso and make it a Sci Fi movie. Narcisso would live in Los Angeles,2019. He is a hebephile,a homosexual and he is around his 40´s. He is also very in love with is own image. One day , one creepy man gives him a time-belt, allowing him to travel back to 200 and meet himself and live a wild sexual romance with himslef. A romance that would lead only to destruction...

Sci fi (none / 0) (#24)
by Pseudonym on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 12:55:23 AM EST

Sci fi might not be the best genre for the purposes of this exercise. The trouble with science fiction is that you have to go to a lot of trouble to introduce the universe and the laws which the universe obeys.

But you never know. We might be able to get some mileage out of it.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Easy as 1, 2 (none / 0) (#29)
by elsorro on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 08:46:54 AM EST

Thinking about this story i developed the story in two ways:

1)Skiping the tine travel thing. It would start in the past with this creepy old homosexual hitting on a young male. This is the one i like the worst but there is no need to explain anything till the very end.

2)Start in the future. Yes, you would have to explain that you can travel in time, but we have seen this so many times that there is no need for much more info. I like this the best, because from the begining you know what he is up to, and you can add more creeps making him wanting to go back have sex with himself and commit suicide killing his younger self.

[ Parent ]
Sounds like The Man Who Folded Himself... (none / 0) (#58)
by spectecjr on Sun Sep 22, 2002 at 06:18:32 PM EST

... by David Gerrold. Hard to find, but you've just outlined the basic plot (YMMV)

[ Parent ]
Why not just read a book on it? (2.00 / 1) (#22)
by losang on Sun Sep 15, 2002 at 11:31:37 PM EST

There are lots of good books on screenwriting. Syd Field has written many good books. Do an search on amazon or bn.

I'm Lazy (2.00 / 1) (#39)
by MmmmJoel on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 06:57:11 PM EST

This series will make me "a) appreciative of the craft of screenwriting, and b) a more sophisticated viewer of films." Sure, I could go to the library or buy books, but I'm not that interested.

Plus, it's interactive this way. Can't beat that.

Looking forward to Part II...

[ Parent ]

How do you know the author is credible (none / 0) (#42)
by losang on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:43:45 PM EST

If you buy a book you can find out the author's credentials within the larger community. With the internet we all know what goes on.

[ Parent ]
Desire (none / 0) (#43)
by losang on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 12:44:35 PM EST

If you are that lazy then you really have no desire to learn the subject.

[ Parent ]
Try before you buy (none / 0) (#48)
by Pseudonym on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:31:49 PM EST

Enough said.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
The source (none / 0) (#51)
by losang on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 10:30:12 PM EST

How do you know the author is credible. This is a general problem with people on the net. They are not sceptical enough. I don't accept anything that is on the internet without checking into it first.

[ Parent ]
Since you asked... (none / 0) (#52)
by Pseudonym on Wed Sep 18, 2002 at 12:43:31 AM EST

I'm not a screenwriter and I don't pretend to be. I'll do a literature review later in the series, but for the moment I just want to a) get people hooked, and b) see if this format (articles + interaction) actually works.

Fair enough?

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Hansel and Gretel in Las Vegas. /nt (3.33 / 3) (#25)
by rickward on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 01:46:58 AM EST

Good taster article (none / 0) (#26)
by endah on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 05:43:11 AM EST

Not much substance yet I would say, more a taster for the hopeful that there's good stuff to come.

One crucial thing: you left out a deadline for the homework :)

One problem I actually have with the homework: when I see films nowadays, I'm often trying to like the film because I'm more interested in having a good time.  Then again, we'll see - I'll give it a shot (the homework, that is).

One (lousy) idea (2.50 / 2) (#28)
by JanneM on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 08:30:01 AM EST

Godzilla meets Gothic:

Fly-by-night productions presents:

The Battery of Frankenstein!


Turns out Victor Frankensteins laboratory is on an old Cthulhu cult site. His main accumulator wakes to unholy life and lays dormant until our age, when it goes on a rampage, controlling batteries everywhere. Lots of rampage and mayhem and attempts to stop it, made more difficult because all the ordinary betteries persist in eating peoples faces off. Climactic scene as the (now gigantic) evil-glowing battery attempts to get into a nuclear reactor but is stopped at the last moment by our hero/heroine that shorts out it's terminals. Add romantic interest/sidekick and mysterious seer that warns everybody and dies gruesomly in a failed attempt to control the occult forces. Add final shot of main characters embracing - and closeup of Romantic Interest where his/her eyes suddenly wake to life with electric sparks and insane smile.

Well, it's not worse than some movies I've seen lately...

Trust the Computer. The Computer is your friend.

Nanotech out of control (3.50 / 2) (#30)
by coder4hire on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 10:30:07 AM EST

Sorcerer's Apprentice in a (future) nanotech industrial complex.

So THAT'S what I'm missing... (4.00 / 1) (#31)
by Kintanon on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 11:55:54 AM EST

I do martial arts choreography as a hobby, and I've done a couple of very short films as B grade kung-fu movies. Whenever we watch them we get a big laugh, since all of the dialog is improv, only the fight scenese have any kind of quality. Apparently all this time it's the STORY we've been missing... maybe we should try that out.


Cool. (none / 0) (#41)
by Anonymous American on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 09:42:20 PM EST

Where are you located? I would be interested in taking part in your Kung Fu battles (behind a camera).

[ Parent ]
Athens, Ga. (none / 0) (#44)
by Kintanon on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:00:23 PM EST

I currently reside in Athens Ga. I occasionally go looking for people to join my mini stunt company called No Strings Attached. We're currently working on acquiring 2 more cameras so we can film better multi-angle scenes. So if you know where I can find a cheap used digital video camera that doesn't suck completely, I'd love to know. We always welcome new workout partners and people who just love the idea of throwing themselves against walls or being tossed through the air. We do have a brief "interview" which really just means you spar me for 5-10 minutes to make sure you have the required control for stunt work. If you don't, we'll train you if your technique is good. So yeah, if you'll be in the area drop me a line.
My e-maill address is kintanon at yahoo.com.


[ Parent ]

For those really interested... (4.50 / 2) (#32)
by loteck on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 12:15:19 PM EST

Make sure to check out Joseph Campbell's The Hero With a Thousand Faces and Christopher Voegler's layman's interpretation of it, The Writer's Journey.

The premise is that all great stories follow the same general ideas that great myths follow, and that these "archetypes" are easily identifiable. All the movies and stories mentioned in this article can be traced back to other stories, going as far back as The Odyessy and further, to the days of shamans and storytellers around the campfire. Voegler has worked for Hollywood before and his book is required reading for many.. if nothing else, than as a great roadmap for writing a good, complete story.

I've read them both and they give absolutely invaluable insight into what makes a good story. Voegler's is much more directed at screenwriting whereas Campbell's is sort of a philisophical work.
"You're in tune to the musical sound of loteck hi-fi, the musical sound that moves right round. Keep on moving ya'll." -Mylakovich

Non-Campbellian stories? (5.00 / 1) (#59)
by irrevenant on Mon Sep 23, 2002 at 07:48:27 AM EST

David Brin makes some good points about the dark side of Campbellian Storytelling (in between the ranting :) at http://www.salon.com/ent/movies/feature/1999/06/15/brin_main/

In a nutshell, the archetypal hero's journey is an elitist tale, of the hero by birthright who is the only one who can save the commoners.

Brin (rightly) points out that one of the great strengths of science fiction is that it provides an alternative to the standard Campbellian tale. Sci-fi is more likely to feature groups of everyman characters working together than a "chosen-one" style hero, and to focus on advancement through technology usable by all. (There are, of course, obvious exceptions).

[ Parent ]
Obligatory Book Reference (none / 0) (#33)
by thekubrix on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 01:53:24 PM EST

I'm by no means in the film industry, but I'm a definate movie addict (saw 10 this weekend alone!). And I've always been tinkering with screenplays (never really finished one, had ideas yes, but couldn't finish a whole story), but heres a book I bought that I felt made a significant difference to how I viewed the craft of screenwriting and sheds new light to this field for those of us who didn't major in it or lack the natural gift to write a screenplay right off the bat:

Screnplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

a good read even if you dont plan to write a screenplay, Mr Field's experience and various references to some of hollywoods best written films made it a very enjoyable read......

A few thoughts. (none / 0) (#35)
by pf embittered on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 02:10:54 PM EST

Syd Field is no brainer. Whatever book you read of his they're pretty much the same. They have solid notes of screenwriting.

Wordplay is a great online resource. Ted Elliot and Terry Rosio have a bunch of articles written from an writers insider perspective and they are very helpful as well as inspirational.

On to my real thought. You can teach proper formatting, you can teach three act structure, you can teach character and story arcs, plot, timing, reasonable suspension of disbelief, chacterization, the whole lot. You can not teach someone how to write. It's something you learn on your own and is completely unique to the individual. On that note, one of the coolest things I ever read in regard to writing was from the above mentioned website. Their theory was that no matter what you did if you applied yourself to it for ten years you would become an expert in that field. Be it garbage man or brain surgeon you couldn't help but be good at it after ten years of plugging away it.

The Stars My Destination, Graphic Novel. Vol. 2 (5.00 / 1) (#36)
by perdida on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 03:50:30 PM EST

I have Vol. 1. The fucker is completely storyboarded if I can get Vol. 2, then I just need to find the right screenwriter.

I have a lot of the casting done, too. :) Vin Diesel as Gully Foyle, Michael Douglas as Presteign..

I can't write plays or screenplays worth a shit, myself. This movie would be a large blockbuster, given the revived taste for real science fiction in Hollywood lately.

The most adequate archive on the Internet.
I can't shit a hydrogen fuel cell car. -eeee

Great book (none / 0) (#47)
by mortisimo on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 07:22:31 PM EST

Bester was like a God to me. The film adaptation has been languishing in development hell for years. It got the greenlight in 97 or 98 but fell apart. Shame.

In keeping with the spirit of the article it should be noted that TSMD is based on the revenge classic The Count Of Monte Cristo.

[ Parent ]

goldilocks in the 21st century (4.00 / 2) (#37)
by pivo on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 04:59:42 PM EST

A story of temptation and redemption. Goldilocks breaks into the home of "Three B3ars" (boy-band/rap-group/satanic-metal band du jour) while they are out on tour. She is drawn further and further into the house, tempted by ever more valuable items to pilfer, until she discovers the dark secret of the B3ars. The B3ars return home early and she must now escape...

Don't develop your idea yet (none / 0) (#40)
by Pseudonym on Mon Sep 16, 2002 at 07:33:52 PM EST

Another piece of advice:

Most of the ideas presented so far are developed. You're already thinking about plot. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (it shows you're all thinking about it, which is what I'd hope would happen).

However, don't be bound by what you think will and won't work. Don't be afraid to think randomly. Juxtapose two ideas and we'll turn that into a story together.

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Jonah Street (3.00 / 1) (#45)
by Scrymarch on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:03:05 PM EST

The tale of Jonah from the Old Testament retold with the main character as a compulsive editor of refidexes (street maps, eg London A-Z).

Don't be afraid to randomly juxtapose, he says ...

Pretty good (none / 0) (#49)
by Pseudonym on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:05:33 PM EST

I actually quite like this idea. Some of the best movie protagonists in recent years have been people with unusual hobbies/quirks/jobs, and the story of Jonah is already in almost the right form. (More on this in the next article.)

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Thanks (none / 0) (#54)
by Scrymarch on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 05:22:20 PM EST

Might I also suggest that some space is left at the end of the series for screenplays that break the rules, ie are not obviously based on a template?  Brechtian techniques in Austin Powers and The Simpsons as well as the non-linearity of Pulp Fiction and Memento might be worth a mention.

Look forward to the next instalment.

[ Parent ]

Absolutely (none / 0) (#56)
by Pseudonym on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 07:36:34 PM EST

Pulp Fiction and Memento-style films will be mentioned early, if only because part of the homework exercises will involve noticing features of films, and it's getting more and more likely that this kind of film will be one of the sorts of films you see. :-)

The others will be mentioned in passing, but they're very hard to write for a beginner, and they rely on a number of extra-script techniques. I'll go through some of the reasons for this later.

sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Cool [nt] (none / 0) (#57)
by Scrymarch on Fri Sep 20, 2002 at 02:23:04 PM EST

[ Parent ]
Othello The Hulk (4.00 / 1) (#46)
by Scrymarch on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 03:04:44 PM EST

Othello is a superhero whose superhuman strength only comes during an uncontrollable rage ... friend and archenemy Iago plants the seeds of jealousy in his head ...

Pied piper / oil crisis (none / 0) (#50)
by malcolm on Tue Sep 17, 2002 at 08:54:06 PM EST

Set in the future, oil and gas reserves are running out and a good replacement has not been found. A young, brilliant scientist has created nano/bio-technology to cheaply and efficiently produce hydrogen.

The idea is stolen by the petrochemical industry and used to hold the world to ransom. The scientist becomes insane with the injustice of the situation and retires to his home laboratory, creating a microbe which will spread throughout the world, killing the hydrogen generator which has replace the world's energy supply.

The authorities must try to stop the petrochemical companies from taking extreme action, free the world's energy supply from their grasp and avert the coming catastrophy by finding the scientist and working out how to stop the killer microbe.

Disney read this article (5.00 / 1) (#53)
by nohomissives on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 05:19:44 PM EST

Disney is releasing Snow White / Kung Fu

Idea (5.00 / 1) (#55)
by nohomissives on Thu Sep 19, 2002 at 05:36:33 PM EST

The Princess and the Pea / but with a Podiatrist/Foot Fetishist who has designed a shoe with a tiny flaw to find a woman with the most perfect feet.

Seriously? (1.00 / 1) (#60)
by wnight on Tue Oct 08, 2002 at 02:39:56 PM EST

Are you even remotely serious?

Psycho based on "Little Red Riding Hood", or serial-killer movies based on "The Three Little Pigs"?

While I can see some basic similarities (some victims die ("I'm going to go jog alone in the park at night, two days after my best friend died.") and then a smarter one manages to escape or defeat the serial killer.... But do you think this is *based on* tTLP?

It sounds incredibly both pretensious, implying that you can see the base for modern movies because nothing is new, and simplistic, saying that something must be based on something older because nobody could ever create something new. (Like the argument that all plots reduce to three, or seven, or twenty, or whatever, basic plots.)

I think the obvious answer is that the tTLP-like elements in a modern serial-killer flick are simply obvious to any story teller.

1) You can't have a serial killer movie without the serial aspect. Some victims must die.
2) Nobody will care to watch a movie where nobody survives.
3) Therefore, after some victims die, one must survive.

It seems to be the simplest explanation too. Either every story teller is desperately trying to tell some fairy tale in the guise of a modern action movie, or simple story elements are obvious to all skilled professionals and as such, they will get used where appropriate.

Not neccesarily "based" (none / 0) (#61)
by ph317 on Mon Apr 28, 2003 at 10:50:36 AM EST

I think (if I understand the author correctly), that when he says X is "based" "classic tale Y", he doesn't neccesarily mean that the author intentionally derived the story in that manner.  I think he means to say that there are certain achetypical classic storylines which work well for tales among humans.  If we wiped away all our arts and stories and started voer from scratch with fresh minds, we would very likely re-invent those same archetypical storylines because they're just aprt of human nature.  Since simple fairy tales are often the most classic, well-known, easy-to-understand version of the storyline archetypes, they make the best examples when discussing them.  The author of Psycho might in fact be the only freak of nature on earth who's never heard the storyline of Little Red Riding Hood, but that doesn't mean that his story isn't based on the same storyline archetype.

[ Parent ]
Screenplay, part 1 | 61 comments (49 topical, 12 editorial, 0 hidden)
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