One of you wisely asked :"Dave, you mentioned "worlds" a lot in class- did you mean the second screenplay should be centered around a larger world, as in, the ten pager we just did was character based and the new screenplay should be "the protagonists' actions affect the world" based?"

My answer: I meant you take us into a world. a screenplay where setting is important. Would think it would be hard to affect the world (like Spiderman 2 :) ) in 10 pages, but sure, if you can, sure. I'm intrigued 

But minimally, just take us into a specific world. . . high school, prison, science fiction, an army base, etc. Same rules apply though: You can't take 3 pages explaining the world. Line 1 (ideally) what's the problem and go from them. So we just have to assume the world OR discovery aspects of the world as you're dealing with a specific problem.

Now if you're tricky (like the Twilight Zone): We think we're in one world but in fact we're in another. So the question is not just the "normal" question (i.e. how do I survive this person holding a gun to my head) but also there's a hidden, bigger question -- i.e. wait -- i thought we were on earth. But are we? 

but mostly just enjoy setting your story in a world you want us to be introduced to OR that you'd enjoy creating (all in 10 pages :) ) .


I watched the 2009 Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Thought about: Why do I care more about the dragon girl story than the reporter's story. Answer: Because I see her brutalized over and over whereas I'm not sure what's at stake for him, and he seems a little creepy obsessing about some dead girl. MIDPOINT: the two of them realize they need each other and get together. I liked him a lot better after that, as he tries to get inside this girl's head, he seems to care about her. I also liked the second half of the movie more.

I also thought about: in a shorter movie, we wouldn't have seen the brutalizing, it's just her unspoken backstory that informs her character. What would that movie have been like? . . . And did she have experienced SO MUCH brutalizing. Then again. . . it's not like I didn't buy it. . . just difficult to watch. And if she had been a black box not just to him but to us as well.. . what would that have been like?

So backstory vs. flashback vs not putting anything (just informing the character by what isn't on the page).

And then I thought about the midpoint of Jurassic Park 2 (welcome to my brain which has many loose synapses) -- the evil company come to rape the dinosaur land and the "greens" wanting to photograph and preserve the dinosaur land. They are both attacked (one is literally thrown over a cliff, all supplies gone, destroyed, "over the edge"/no turning back) so . . . at the midpoint they need each other, they need to work together.

Enemies needing to work together is another common way you divide your script in half and turn it at the middle. first enemies, then coming together, but still the potential to turn on each other again once things get better.

African Queen I think follows this structure as well.




saw Want by Zayd Dohrn. Thought it was really good and thought about our class:

1. Because people are upset, anxious, angry, lustful in screenplays no one should be sleeping.

2. And if people are sleeping in your screenplay then I'm sleeping.

Note that the central image in the play was the couch. Marley "slept" on it but mostly she couldn't sleep, had sex, did drugs, etc. And when she was sleeping someone else was wandering around the house. Again everyone was anxious/activated in someway.

Thought about the cuts in the action - at a turning point, a piece of new info/new conflict. In other words, don't finish a scene and go onto some other scene. Finish a scene with something unfinished - a question, a conflict, etc.

Saw Blue Valentine - sad, but really liked it. Deb and I were talking about the various symbols and metaphors in it:

they stay in the future room at a motel, but really it's about the past and when he wakes up she's gone. IE They have no future.

The daughter and father try to make a house for the dog, but the dog won't go in/there's something missing.

and the mother leaves the gate open, allowing the dog to escape. Either she's not ready to make a home (or this home)/she wants to leave and/or again something broken about this home.

Deb and I spent a long time talking about exactly was the nature of the problem. Which is good - simple situation, bought the characters, but at the same time complex/doesn't fit into a box. And who do you like? And how does that change?

(And the sex scenes - told us something about the characters. Not just watching sex.)

And the conflict definitely gets worse as the story goes on. 





 Thought about POV this weekend:

 How do we build a sense of POV, that a particular character is our main character, that it is through that person's eyes that we are seeing the world.

 Take a look at the first 15 minutes of Heavenly Creatures. Pauline doesn't sing while everyone else sings, Pauline makes different eye contact than the other girls. (like Jody foster in Silence of the Lambs - who's also separated). Pauline watches and reacts as Juliette acts. We see the world through her eyes.

 And take a look at the first 30 minutes of Brubaker. Robert Redford appears to be just another inmate, but we keep cutting back to his reaction each time a prisoner is tortured or mistreated. He doesn't really talk or do anything, but he looks, watches, reacts. Right at the 30 minute mark (end of act i / 120 minute movie), he reveals his true identity.

 And Training Day -- Ethan Hawke has a clear motivation: to do well and impress his new boss. He has one day to do it in. We see Denzel Washington through his eyes.

 Speaking of Training Day:

 Ethan Hawke has a very strict set of rules:

I'll do anything you ask me to do (to impress Denzel)

Smiles and tears - (are the things you preserve for yourself; keep off the job)

Don't talk about my family.

And then he proceeds to break each rule.

no, he won't do ANYTHING that Denzel asks him to do. (He hesitates, he does, and then he doesn't)

He ends up crying. (Denzel has gotten into his brain, his emotions, his soul)

He uses his family as leverage against a criminal - please I have a daughter.

So structure/movement.

Also the reason this movie works is because it's not clear that denzel is evil. He might be telling him good advice. So at each moment either Ethan's morality or Denzel's "street smarts" might be the correct path. It keeps going back and forth. Each time Ethan is convinced that Denzel is evil, Denzel says something that sounds wise. In your movies, at each moment - each path should seem possible/logical until it's finally tipped. It's like telling a good argument, we show understanding on each side. It's also a power struggle where the power is equal.

Also other structural devices that give the piece shape:

When Denzel and Ethan meet, Denzel (showing his power) says tell me a story.

About Half way through, Denzel meets the three wise men who tell DeNZEL to tell them a story - showing the power they have over him. it's at this point that the "plot" is revealed - Denzel's need to get a million dollars by midnight or he'll be a dead man and how he's been setting up Ethan.

And as i was watching: i noticed that every place they visited -- all the minority neighborhoods seemed to be filled with nothing but gangbangers and everyone seemed to have a gun. Now is this racist? Or is it a vision - that the volume is turned up and that extraneous elements are gotten rid of ? Or is just that of course these are the neighborhoods that cops visit and this is how the cops see those neighborhoods (again POV)? As an aside, I went to school in South Central LA and I visited Watts - you see just people, living, walking around, going to work, etc. Anyway, thoughts about ethics, truth, vision. No right or wrong answer. just something to think about.

And I noticed that Denzel was connected to Christ imagery. Why? How?

Anyway, POV. Think about why we care about your main character and how we know that your main character is in fact your main character. 




start the story on page 1, make sure there's enough conflict and the conflict builds (don't back away from the conflict), make sure there's a polarity/dichotomy between two activities/ideas, make sure we can see/know your character right away (ie comic book panel, cliche, etc.) but of course that's just the beginning, the character/situation is much more complex, make sure there's a secret and/or sense of DANGER at every moment.  and think about scope. what can you accomplish in 10 pages, not lots of description, what's the ONE detail that locks us in, don't write so much dialogue that energy is expelled/too much info revealed, also make sure your characters speak differently based on their personalities/upbringing/etc (one character speaks in 4 line chunks, the other one speaks  in single sentence fragment, etc.)

This week: Think about the differences between a 10 page movie, 20 page movie, feature.  What changes? What remains the same?  How do you know if your idea is for a 10 page thing or a feature or can one be developed or collapsed (or part of!) the other. 

What line have you written that makes me INTRIGUED to invest 10, 20, 2 hours in your world. So not lots of lines, but the one.



“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.”  —Margaret Chittenden, author of 100+ romance and mystery novels.