Welcome to DAY SEVEN in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
It’s time to start writing. It’s good to spend some time dreaming about your project, but there’s a time to stop dreaming and start writing and that is now.
We’ll begin with the beginning, The OPENING IMAGE.
The opening image of a movie should have some power. It might start with an image that has a symbolic power or immerses us right into the story in some compelling way.It may also rhyme with the closing image.
It may introduce the character. The opening of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE shows us Olive, staring into the TV as it plays a beauty pageant, the pageant winner reflected in her coke bottle glasses Then it pulls out to show Olive in full workout gear, walking on a treadmill.
Check out this video by editor Jacob T Swinney juxtaposing the first and final frames of several famous films:
Craft your opening image and then keep going. Write your first five pages, introducing the character and the world of the story.
Welcome to DAY SIX in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
A strong DESIRE is important in developing a good story. Today you’re going to write in your character’s voice. You’re going to have them talk about what they want most in the world.
In musicals, this is called “THE I WANT SONG”
Dorothy dreams of being anywhere but in Kansas
Hamilton dreams of doing something great in “my shot”
Elsa dreams of getting away from everyone so she can stop being repressed and just let it go.
The story is strong because right off the bat the audience knows what the character wants, why and what they might be willing to do to get it.
Movies have I want songs too. Olive in little Miss Sunshine wants to be a beauty pageant winner. The Batman wants to find a way to change Gotham City. Inception’s Cobb wants to find a way to get back to his children. Woody wants to be Andy’s one and only.
The strong desire of the character is what drives them.
Write a page monologue of your character talking about what they want, why, and how they are going to get it. This sets the stakes for the story.
When you’re done, do the same for your MAIN ANTAGONIST.
Now you know what they want, you have an outline for act one, conflict, a setting, stakes. It’s time to start writing. Tomorrow.
Welcome to DAY FIVE in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
Now is where the NOTECARDS are put to use.
Find an area where you can lay out the Notecards and find an order to them.
You can lay them out on a table to start. Or you might tack them to a corkboard if you have one, but the table is good. You are going to place the cards in the order you think they come in.
You should start to see the story forming. Don’t worry, you don’t need to know it all yet. We only want to outline up until the End of act ONE, or PLOT POINT ONE. We will stop between each act to outline some more as we go.
You can download the outline I use HERE.
Lay out the plot points for act one. Here’s what you need to figure out:
An opening image, This could be something poetic that hints at the larger themes of the movie. The ordinary world stage. This is where we meet the character and see their everyday world. The INCITING INCIDENT. The event that kicks off the story. Then they will be called to take some action to change their life. They’ll refuse at first, and then something will force them to do it anyway. That is PLOT POINT ONE.
You can check out my video on Three-act structure for more guidance, But only worry about act one right now.
Welcome to DAY four in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
This is an old school screenwriter’s trick: We’re going to use notecards to brainstorm scene ideas.The great thing about the notecards method is you can flip through them and change the order and lay them out to see your plot without committing to the order of scenes.
The method is you write at the top of each card, what happens in the scenes in big bold letters. Then you can add little notes on the card as you see fit little details.
The goal is to have forty cards total. Ten cards for act one. Twenty for act two — or ten cards for the first half of act two, ten cards for the second. And ten for act three. Forty cards makes a full plot, but of course, this is not an exact science and different movies will have different numbers if scenes.
You’ll see once we start, by filling in what you know it will lead you to figure out what other scenes you might need.
I’ll talk you through it here. For example” let’s say we need to write a superhero flick. They tend to follow a similar pattern.
START by writing down any scenes you know you need. Or anything that you have a strong picture. I picture this superhero movie having a fight on a train. So I’ll write that down.
Next, we’ll tackle act one. Write a card for the OPENING IMAGE. Now write another for The INCITING INCIDENT. Give us three scenes that’s three cards, that will give us a picture of the characters life before the inciting incident. This is the ordinary world phase.
After the INCITING INCIDENT, which could be the moment they gain their powers. We’ll watch them struggle with the decision to take action. This is the DEBATE section or the refusal of the call. We’ll probably need to give an introduction scene to the antagonist. This is easy to make cliche, so push yourself to find a new version to make the antagonist seem good and scary. Then we’ll end act one with a moment where the character takes on the journey: THe LOCK-IN or plot point one.
Now we are in ACT TWO. Write up three scenes or obstacles that the protagonist might face in the first half of act two.
You may need to introduce a B story. It could be a love interest or something.
Brainstorm a bunch of potential obstacles that get harder and harder. You’ll throw some of these cards out. Brainstorming rules are, no idea is too stupid. No idea is censored. That’s why you bought a 100 pack and not a fifty.
You’ll need one for a MIDPOINT, this will change the story and three more obstacles for the second half of act two.
Add cards to revisit the B story. At some point, your character will have a conversation where they assert their POINT OF VIEW on life, They’ll be wrong, and this will establish the theme by having them say something they think but shouldn’t.
Think about a few set pieces, scenes that we’ll remember. Write cards for those.
Now we’ll hit act THREE. You’ll need an ALL IS LOST MOMENT. Then your character will need to change. The Antagonist will make one last grasp at the hero. Then we’ll have a resolution. Then a resolution for the B story. Maybe a denoument and a closing image.
If you want more ideas on story structure, check out my playlist analyzing story structure of several films…
Try to get forty cards. We’ll use these tomorrow to create an OUTLINE.
Welcome to DAY THREE in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
Yesterday we found the protagonist, and today, we’ll work on THE ANTAGONIST.
Your antagonist is the ENGINE of the story. They are the one that provide the obstacles for the protagonist. You need a strong Antagonist to make the story work. In fact, you need several.
In the book, The ANATOMY of story, John Truby suggests four-point antagonism. This means the Protagonist sits at one corner and is opposed by three other antagonists.
For example: Take THE BIG LEBOWSKI.
The DUDE has his main antagonist, THE BIG LEBOWSKI. But that is not enough he also has
THE NIHILISTS that have kidnapped poor bunny Lebowski, and most important of all, he has WALTER, his best friend and absolute relentless psychopath. Walter is the who feeds the Dude the most significant obstacles. Sometimes having you antagonist right next to the hero is the most interesting choice.
Draw a diagram of your antagonists and put your hero at one corner, and the three opposition characters at the other end of the rectangle.
Finally, you’ll want to write about your antagonist. Start with your MAIN ANTAGONIST. What motivates them? What quirks do they have? Physical attributes? How do they dress? What do they want?
Write about them for five minutes straight. Do the same for the other protagonists.
If you want more ideas on creating the antagonist check out this video here….
Tomorrow we’ll use these ideas to brainstorm a plot. HOMEWORK: You’ll need INDEX CARDS For tomorrow’s task. Pick up a pack of 100 cards. Maybe get the color coded ones in case you want to get fancy. You can get them at any drug store.I’ll see you tomorrow.
Welcome to DAY TWO in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
Today we’re going to create the protagonist. Your protagonist or hero is the one who needs to carry the movie, so they better be interesting as hell.
You need to pick the most interesting protagonist possible.
One trick is to pick someone who is ill-suited for the job at hand. For example: Let’s go back to the GODFATHER,Remember the logline: The task is, after Don Corleone is shot you must take over the family business and root out your enemies.
You could make this movie with Sonny (James Caan’s Character) as the main character and it’d still be a good movie, but it wouldn’t be great. Sonny is suited for the job he’s a violent tough guy and criminal.
What makes it great as they pick MICHAEL instead. Micheal wants nothing to do with the family business he’s rejected his father’s lifestyle. This is what makes him a great protagonist. This also brings in a sense of irony that makes the story so fascinating, We’re going to take Michael, a man who rejects the mafia and is against everything it stands for, and turn him into the godfather
So pick your protagonist. Give him a name even if it’s just a temporary one. No time to labor over decisions like this. You can always change it later. That’s what find & replace is for.
Write about your protagonist for a couple of paragraphs. What do they do for a living? What are their flaws? What drives them? What is their philosophy? Do they have any unique physical attributes?
Now surround them with the supporting cast. Does the character have a BEST FRIEND? A MOTHER and Father? An antagonist? An inner antagonist–that’s someone who appears to be on their side but opposes them. Do they have a mentor? A boss? A love interest? List out your cast and give everybody a name. Again, don’t wait to name them. That will always stall you.Write about each person and make bold decisions about who they should be.
It can be helpful to cast them. Grab pictures on the internet of actors you’d like to use to play the character. Or use your friends. It can be a short cut that kickstarts your imagination to base characters on people you know or actors you like.
If you want more ideas on creating a character, check out this video on Creating Characters using great Television icons.
Now you have your cast. Tomorrow we’ll add an ANTAGONIST.
Welcome to DAY ONE in the thirty days to a first draft screenwriting thread.
The first few days will be spent outlining and planning.
We’re going to write a logline or elevator pitch. I always start with this, because if you can’t write an elevator pitch then you don’t know what you are writing. You’ll also use this all the time. Contests will ask you for one and when anyone asks you what your screenplay is about, you should be able to rattle it off in one minute.
A good logline has four elements:
Who your protagonist is.
What is the inciting Incident, this is the event that kicks the story off.
What is their goal?
And finally, what makes it difficult? This could be a dilemma or could be the cause of the conflict.
So for example: Let’s take the THE GODFATHER.
How do we describe the protagonist? Michael Corleone. The reluctant son of a Mafia Crime boss.
What happens to him? His father is shot and injured, leaving Michael to take over the family.
What is his goal? To root out his father’s enemies.
And finally.. what makes it hard. What creates a dilemma?
What makes The Godfather interesting is Michael wants nothing to do with organized crime. This creates an irony.
Let’s put it all together now…
Michael Corleone is the son of mafia crime boss who wants nothing to do with the criminal world. When the Godfather is shot, Michael must take over the family and root out his father’s enemies.
That’s 35 words. You want to keep it under 50. The contests all ask for a logline and they always want it under 50.
So write down a logline for your film using the four elements:
One. Who your protagonist is? Two: What happens to them. Three: What’s their goal? Four: what brings the conflict. If you know these four things you can begin writing.
We’re going to write a screenplay in thirty steps/ thirty days. Most of the prompts can be done in an hour or less. The days are broken up into chapters so you can bookmark these prompts and hit one a day.
9 days will be spent on brainstorming and that leaves 21 days for the actual writing, that means you’ll need to write 4-5 pages a day to get a ninety to one-hundred and ten pages of screenplay done. Screenplays are mostly white space, so 4-5 pages is not a lot of words. You can do this.
The first thing you need to do is to commit to writing a VOMIT DRAFT. Writing a first draft in thirty days means you need to write fast and not be precious. Accept that no matter what you do you will have to rewrite this thing FIVE TIMES, so you don’t have to get it right the first time. The trick to understanding this is to know that even if you tried to get it perfect and labored over it endlessly, perfecting every word, it still won’t be perfect, so you might as well vomit out the first draft.
The other thing to accept is you’re not that smart, (No one is) but your gut is. Your gut is where the story comes from, so if you write with your head, you’ll get something too mannered and not very interesting. By writing the vomit draft you’ll force yourself to write from the gut, where all the good, juicy subconscious gunk will come out on the page. You’ll surprise yourself, and when you surprise yourself, you surprise the reader.
The third reason to vomit out a first draft is… If you finish this draft, you’ll be motivated to revise it. If it sits unfinished in a drawer, it might sit there forever. MARK Statistics say, if a screenwriter spends more than three months on a first draft they are 80% likely to never finish it at all….
Okay, I made that up. There are no statistics because no one would scientifically study the practices of screenwriters, but I’m guessing it is true.
There is nothing more frustrating than an unfinished draft. A drawer full of half-finished screenplays will feel like little bits of your soul you have not explored.
Now commit for thirty days. This is an easy way to make a commitment. You don’t have to commit to a writing practice for the rest of your life, you just need to make space for your writing for thirty days at a time. It is easier to make a short term commitment than it is to tranform behavior forever, and the truth is, if you can bang out a screenplay in one month, even if it’s all the writing you did all year, you would be ahead of most people who spend years trying to write and never get anything done.
So on day ZERO, all you need to do: Decide you are going to commit to the vomit draft….
1. You must rewrite this FIVE TIMES, no matter what. So don’t bother making the first draft good.
2. Writing fast equals writing from your gut. Write from your gut.
3. If you finish the first draft, you’re likely to finish the fifth draft. Write this down in big bold letters and stick it somewhere where you can see it.
Repeat this until you believe it, and then tomorrow we begin.
You can watch a video prompt every day over on Catharsis Machine–
WHAT STAR WARS MEANS — GOING IN DEEP: THE MEANING OF STAR WARS
The world is full of people thinking about Star Wars…. The big questions are all asked: Did Greedo shoot first? (Answer no) Is Ray a Mary Sue? Is the Last Jedi the worst Star Wars film or the best? But I’m not interested in all that….
What if instead, we go deep? Cut open its insides like Han Solo with the Taun Taun and see what’s inside???
What is the deeper meaning of STAR WARS….
I: THE POWER FANTASY INVERTED
At the center of Star Wars is an inversion of power fantasy. Contrast Star Wars against the movies of Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sly Stallone. Movies such as Commando, Cobra are what we call POWER FANTASIES. Even contrasting Star Wars against Marvel movies, in a power fantasy, the hero succeeds through sheer force of will or physical strength.
But often Star Wars rejects this,the most powerful people in Star Wars are often the smallest.
The Ewoks are the perfect example of this… They were meant to parallel Vietnam and the American Empire’s invasion of Nam. Lucas wanted to show the most technologically advanced empire go against determined little teddy bears armed with sticks and stones… And get their ass handed to them.
Star Wars differs from so much of our media as it does not value physical strength. When Luke ends the emperor he does not do it through strength, he does it by tossing his lightsaber aside. He does it through compassion. Star Wars is an anti-power fantasy, where the small, the inconsequential are the heroes.
This is the idea behind R2D2. R2 saves everyone in every single movie. Without R2, everyone would have died in episode four. Now C-3PO is pretty useless, but that doesn’t negate how much R2 matters….
R2 and C3PO were meant to be an homage to the two peasant characters in Akira Kurosawa’s Hidden Fortress. R2D2 and C3PO are ordinary servants thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and in the case of R2, become the hero. What is significant about this is the majority of action films are power fantasies–sending the message to the audience that those with strength are righteous. And this is an idea that can have terrible consequences…
Sure, Star Wars also at times traffics in power fantasy– we imagine & fantasize about having the power of a Jedi. To move things with our mind, but in the end, what brings victory is never power. This is where Star Wars–when it is done right–differs from other hero stories…
In Star Wars, Luke does not win because he is powerful. He is the last X-wing left, the last hope. He wins by firing an impossible shot, by trusting the force. In Return of the Jedi, Luke is only victorious when he tosses aside his lightsaber. It is the only way. Luke cannot destroy the Emperor. Anyone who watched Clone Wars knows this.
And when there is a failure, it is because the hero has succumbed to the power fantasy. Anakin is corrupted by power fantasy, by the belief that he might one day gain the power to stop death.
In ROGUE ONE, the Empire is not defeated through strength, but through sacrifice….
Now compare to the ending of Captain Marvel or Thor Ragnarok, both modern movies made by the same parent company. In both films, the hero succeeds by unlocking a power.
And to be clear, I’m not against POWER FANTASY, I need to admit I, like most people, enjoy it a lot. I love Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sly Stallone. And power fantasy even can have its uses. Marvel movies are entirely power fantasies. Often the power fantasy can serve the purpose of giving people who do not feel powerful in real life a vision of themselves that is more powerful, and that can be a way of uplifting the audience….
But the danger of indulging solely in power fantasy is it reinforces a system that values power as its primary virtue.
In general, I don’t advocate getting rid of any type of story, instead, create a counter-narrative… and this is what Star Wars does. Star Wars offers that there are forces capable of overcoming power forces like compassion, sacrifice, and intuition. Star Wars offers an alternative idea to the concept that power makes right.
This is where some of the new Star Wars misses the point… It often succumbs to the same obsession with power worship that Lucas argues against in the first series and shows the consequences of in the Prequels.
The consequences of Power Worship as the dominant narrative can be devastating. It is no secret that George Lucas saw The Empire as a stand-in for America. Lucas was a child of the ’60s, but where his peers were dropping out and dropping acid, Lucas played it straight, but the rebellion came out in a different way.
Star War is an Anti-authoritarian text, arguing against all forms of oppression. Even when the oppressor is us…
II: STAR WARS IS A NEW MYTH….
You can see the roots of Star Wars in George Lucas’ mega-hit film, American Graffiti. It’s about growing up in Modesto California, and dreaming of getting out, dreaming of bigger things.
You can see the parallels between Richard Dreyfuss’ Curt, and Luke, as they both yearn for a bigger life. Star Wars is a hero’s Journey, and at the heart of every hero’s journey is a coming-of-age story, a ritual of transformation. Lucas has talked about a lack of heroes at the time Star Wars came out, — we have no lack of heroes anymore– maybe a few too many in fact, but at the time, seventies cinema was a place for gritty tragedy with dark protagonists and downer endings…
Rituals cement the important moments of our lives in memory, but so much of modern society has forgotten the importance of ritual. The hero’s journey returns the ritual of the coming of age to the culture through story. In creating Star Wars, Lucas sought to bring an ancient myth into the modern era…
Much has been written about Lucas’ obsession and friendship with Joseph Campbell, and how he built Star Wars on the bones of the Hero’s Journey…
If Star Wars is the hero’s journey in its purest form, by understanding the core meaning of the Hero with a Thousand Faces we can understand Star Wars….But what is the core meaning of the Hero’s Journey?
Joseph Campbell talks about a coming-of-age ritual in certain Aboriginal tribes…..
In the ritual, the boys are told they are going to be circumcised. As a part of the ritual the boys run from their fathers into their mother’s arms, and are pried away by the fathers, held down, and circumcised. The Father’s act creates fear and resentment against the father, but the father is just playing their part in the ritual…
In the stage of the hero’s journey called the Atonement of the Father, the hero has an earth-shattering revelation that temporarily turns the hatred inward, toward the father, toward the hero’s Shadow. In The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell writes about the necessity of turning the hatred inward, the realization that you are part of the problem…
He writes that societies that do not turn against themselves, will become lost in nationalism, and self-worship. They are boys who never pulled away from their mother’s breast, incapable of seeing the truth about the place they come from…
The Hero’s journey is a separation from what you know and an entering into a ritual to become a complete person…
At the moment when Luke discovers his father is Vader, he finally understands that what he thought was evil has been inside of him all along. This moment is telegraphed when Luke enters the swamp in Dagobah. He hears something and Yoda tells him to investigate. He tells him he will not need his lightsaber, But Luke ignores his mentor and takes it anyway. He sees Vader and they clash sabers, Luke cuts off his head, and the faceplate explodes revealing Luke’s face. This moment echoes Carl Jung’s idea of the Shadow.
A shadow is a dark reflection of a person. Facing your shadow is part of Carl Jung’s process of Individuation. You must travel into your opposite. Luke shows his flaw by ignoring Yoda’s suggestion to leave his lightsaber behind. This moment echoes the end of Return of the Jedi, where Luke faces off against Vader. He knocks him down and cuts off his hand. He’s about to kill him, but he stops himself. He looks at Vader, looks at his own mechanical hand, and tosses away the lightsaber…
He turns the hatred inward, but in the end, the hero cannot hold onto that hatred, they must move beyond it. At the end of the trilogy, Luke accepts the father inside him and tosses the lightsaber aside. He has moved beyond the hatred. But the hatred was essential to his growth–essential for the son to rebel against the past to create a new future, otherwise, there is no growth.No way for society to progress…
This is what the Hero’s journey does, it takes the hero through a harsh and brutal transformative ritual that challenges the core of who they are. At the end of the journey, the hero will have gone on a journey to transform their world and instead will find they have transformed themselves. In the end, the journey exists to bring Luke in touch with the force.
III: WHAT DOES THE FORCE MEAN?
In analyzing what the force means, it is important to understand how it contrasts against the Empire. The Empire is concerned with order above all.They are capable of destroying planets, but other than this act, they are concerned with bringing order to the galaxy.
Palpatine, played with glorious malevolence by Ian McDairmond, is the epitome of evil — Or is he??? Or does he simply believe that he is the best person to run the galaxy? Does he believe that order is the way and that his evil acts are justified by the control he has brought to the galaxy.
What other use does power have for Palpatine? He doesn’t live well. His clothes are not the garish gold of a scarface, they are the black robes of a monk. So what does Palpatine gain from power if he does not desire material things?
Palpatine desires power for the sake of power.The Sith desire to control life itself. Mastery over death is a philosophy based on fear. When one fears life, they desire to control it. Sure, Palpy looks like pure evil, but Lucas doesn’t seem to believe in that– As he states here:he’s interested in how a person’s belief that they are doing what is best for society creates evil.
And look at the society before the Empire… always in conflict. The Empire believes in Order… So if the Empire is that which believes order is the way to maintain life.
Then what is the force?
The philosophy of the force is the opposite of order, it is knowing that you cannot control the universe. You don’t control the force, you let it flow through you. Anger is a reaction to loss of control.
A Sith rages against the world in a hopeless and lost quest to control what cannot be controlled. They are incapable of happiness, corrupted so completely there must only be two of them because they must always watch their back for the moment when their apprentice tries to kill them. The Sith’s need for control is so absolute, that they can never see how impossible it all is…
We don’t have to see the backstory of each of these villains to know that their corruption comes from fear, although these origin stories have been chronicled in novels and comic books, some canon, some not… We can only guess that their origin goes something like this.
IV. The Rise and Fall of Anakin Skywalker…How Anger Corrupts
At the core of Star Wars, is the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker. Prophecied to bring balance to the force, this prophecy comes true, but in a way no one, even a Jedi, could foresee.
It is Anakin Skywalker who destroys the Jedi, and brings Palpatine to power… and ultimately, it is Anakin Skywalker who then destroys Palpatine, bringing Balance to the force.
It is an ugly process and a pattern that often is replicated in history…
Society becomes complacent, silly, and disordered. And then a massive wave of violence arises and takes over, destroying the status quo. That new order may be fascist, and will eventually need to be rebelled against, overthrown… and balance restored. until the cycle begins again.
The prequels are not great movies, but they do tell a great story. It is the delivery that is off.
Delivery aside, the rise and fall of Anakin Skywalker is an incredible tale of Shakespearean depth (even if the dialogue ain’t Shakespeare)
Anakin begins as the Chosen one, again this is George Lucas establishing and idea and then destroying it. Anakin is an angry young man, something the Jedi council senses when it denies that he should be taught. Anakin goes against the wishes of the Jedi Council, he begins to lie, suggesting to Padme they should hide their love from the council. When he has visions of her death, he seeks the power to change the future, and when Palpatine tells him this power is the only way, he succumbs…
But the seeds of his downfall are sown throughout…
In a scene where Padme and Anakin are having dinner together, Anakin uses the force to pass a piece of fruit to her. He remarks, “Obi-Wan would be very grumpy if he caught me doing this.”
The force is not a parlor trick. He does not respect the power he wields… This is written into the lore about the Dark Side, the force of lightning is something only the dark side can wield. (This is what makes the Rise of Skywalker such an affront to Star Wars) It is not that Yoda can’t do use force lightning, he won’t do it. Power corrupts, and only through denial of that power can one stay balanced…
Anakin is all impulse, all Id. He is the chosen one and he believes it. He serves his own ego above all else.
This is what evil is— It is not a person who wears black or a simple idea of black Vs white…
Star Wars is often described as a simple tale of good vs. evil, but it is neither. It isn’t simple, and part of what is so great about Star Wars is the way it obliterates the audience’s concept of evil.
PART FIVE: Analyzing Good & Evil
Star Wars is not simple. And Star Wars doesn’t believe in evil, not in how it is traditionally seen. It helps to remember how we are supposed to watch it. As a kid, in 1977, when I first saw Star Wars, Darth Vader was the personification of evil. He might as well have been Satan himself.
And then this happened….
This moment destroyed all simple concepts of good and evil…
Concepts as a kid, you’d been sold on…The trick of showing Vader as the most evil thing imaginable then revealing he started out good, shatters the perception of everyone who watched it.
That’s why if you’re going to show the movie to someone, you must watch them in the original order. Denying the audience the revelation that Vader is Luke’s Father undercuts the power of the story.
THE PROPER ORDER TO WATCH THE MOVIES….
Even more important, is to leave time between watching the movies. There were years between Star Wars and Empire, years where you played with toys and role-played and imagined Vader as the source of all evil.
So that one day, when you discovered the truth, just like Luke, it was ego-shattering. Grasping the concept that evil isn’t simple, that there really is only corruption, is an important part of a person’s growth. A child exists in the simple idea that there are good things and bad things… an adult grows beyond (Or so you’d hope, but our political landscape might tell us the opposite).
The reality is, those who wear white hats may still be evil, good people are capable of awful things, and the ones we know to be evil, didn’t necessarily start that way (Sure there are exceptions, like Ted Bundy) but for the most part, it is a corrupting ideology that changes a person from good to evil.
But the brilliance of Star Wars is the way it establishes an idea and then destroys it. It is deconstructive by nature.
PART SIX: STAR WARS is a DECONSTRUCTIONIST TEXT
When watching The Luke Skywalker saga we imagined what a better world it would be if the Jedi ruled. And then we see it…
And it’s not so great…
The Republic is a mess. There’s slavery, there’s conflict everywhere, The Jedi council are ineffective, the Senate is corrupt, worthless, incapable of ruling… (Sound familiar). By setting us up to spend three movies wanting a world where the Jedi are in charge and then showing us that world, and showing it to be corrupt in a different way, but still corrupt, the story brilliantly teaches the concepts of POST-MODERNISM….
Post-modernism is a movement in philosophy and art, that is distrustful of all META-NARRATIVES. A meta narrative is a story used as an underlying formative idea that a culture is built on… A world-view, in a way.
Post-modernism, particularly in art, and let’s stick with how it is used in art as opposed to philosophy.
My understanding of it comes from art. And here we have to do a brief, probably simplistic and inaccurate analysis of art history…..
The movement called MODERNISM sought to attack the fundamental narratives society is built on. Narratives such as religion, American Exceptionalism or dominant political ideologies such as capitalism or imperialism.These new artists sought to overthrow the status quo, and replace it with new, more pure society.
Post-modernism came along as a reaction to this concept.
The post-modernists saw that once the old status quo is burned down and replaced by the modernist’s concept of the world, the new narrative becomes a similarly authoritarian idea, one that then must be torn down.
Rather than believing they know the way, the post-modern artist believes all ways of organizing the universe must be met with the same level of distrust…
This is what happens in the prequels…We are shown a corrupt society, that is then overthrown by a fascist, who is then overthrown by rebels, who inevitably will replace it with a society that will believe it has the way but will eventually grow corrupt.
Star Wars is an Anti-Authoritarian text. It understands that there cannot be one way of thinking or an idea or principle or organizing the universe, there can only be an ever-changing evolving system. An establishing of the status quo, followed by its violent destruction, followed by the emergence of a new idea, followed by the corruption of that idea, repeat, repeat….
Any attempt to control the universe, results in corruption. The only way is surrender to the graceful energy flowing through the universe….
And this ultimately is what Star Wars is all about…
Times are scary. And when times are scary, horror movies hit it big at the box office.
In this video we’ll discuss how to write a horror story for a screenplay or novel, we’ll use examples from great horror stories from the past and present, and give you TEN TIPS to get you started….
1. TRIGGER yourself, Trigger THE AUDIENCE
The horror movie is the opposite of a trigger warning, we come to get triggered. The Horror needs to know how to push the buttons of the audience. The easiest way to understand how to do this is to ask yourself what triggers you?
For example: Creepy little kids and religion do it for me, the perversion of innocence gets to me on a cellular level… So nothing scares me more than the Exorcist…
The worst moment of the film isn’t even horror, it’s watching Regan be out through a million medical tests. Watching a child undergo medical procedures brings up every parent’s worst nightmare….
It sounds mean, mining the real anxieties of real life, but that is the job.
Stephen King witnessed a girl from his town get mercilessly bullied by other kids. The memory of this bothered him enough to emerge years later as Carrie–the book that launched his career. I don’t like anyone touching my neck. A psychic told me because I was hung in a past life. Is that true? I don’t know, not sure I believe him. But watching a knife cross a throat always gets me.
Ask yourself, what bothers you? The chances are if it bothers you, there is an audience out there that shares the same trigger.
2. Give us people we LOVE, and put them through hell…
Stephen King said the art of writing horror is to give us characters we love and put them in harm’s way, watch them squirm their way out. So the first is to give us people we love. How do you do that? We need to make the characters sympathetic, but give them a moment in the story early on where they either do something good (SAVE THE CAT) or are the underdog.
In THE BLACK PHONE, we meet our hero and see he is being viciously bullied. This makes him the underdog and makes us feel for him…. When he’s rescued by a fellow student who beats the bully up for him, we really love this kid. This is called the SAVE THE CAT Trick. The character has done something good which makes us love them, so when the next scene they are taken, the horror is all the more effective.
The MOVIE THE STRANGERS has a genius take on this trick. A couple comes home from a friend’s wedding to a cabin in the woods. The whole place is decked out for romance, flower petals, and champagne, but the couple are disconnected… Then we realize that he has proposed to her, and she said no, and now they are stuck in this romantic cabin for the weekend.
This is such a great and specific and painful moment. We can imagine what it would feel like to be both of them, awkwardly trapped together with their relationship on the edge. There’s not much time to bond us to them, as this movie needs to get to the horror as soon as possible, so the movie uses this trick as a shorthand to bond us before it takes them to hell.
3. Use the UNCANNY VALLEY
The uncanny valley is a phenomenon that when something looks too human but not quite right it causes a sense of revulsion… Like those creepy kids from The Polar Express movie…. Ugg. Nightmare fuel.
The best monsters aren’t necessarily bizarre creations with many multiple limbs–they might be human, but just off….
Like watch this scream from THE THING. Sure a human head with spiderlegs is scary but that scream is one of the worst things in the movie…Or watch the way Samara in the Ring walks… There’s something wrong about it? Isn’t there? It’s an old trick from Nosefaratu. They filmed her walking backwards and reversed the footage in post
Or in the invasion of the Body Snatchers. This end scream has haunted me my entire life….
4. Write about a TABOO.
In the book, The Philosophy of Horror, Noel Carrol talks about horror as a way for a taboo idea to be expressed. Horror can be a way to tackle ideas that would otherwise be too radical for people to face, but by labeling it Horror, we acknowledge it is something we do not want to face…
And then we kill it with a sledgehammer…
By looking at the taboo, we can find a source for the story. Like in the Babadook where a mother begins to fear there is something wrong with her child…. Something every parent secretly thinks about but would not utter aloud. What if you can’t deal with them? What if you can’t handle it?
Or in Get Out, which deals with the subtle undercurrent of racism in America, but did this without sounding the usual alarm bells that would make everyone up in arms… Horror allows us to tell stories about subjects that make people uncomfortable…
Search for the taboos in society today. What can you turn into a horror?
5. Take from REALITY…. (almost)
Horror loves to lie about being based on a true story…. The Texas Chainsaw, Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs all take inspiration from the real-life story of Ed Gein.
Although none of them tell his story. Ed Gein worked in a cemetery, and one day lost it and murdered his mother and her friend. The police found him with a room full of furniture made of body parts he’d exhumed from the cemetery and found he’d sowed himself a woman’s suit
Texas Chainsaw blatantly tells us this is true when Dan from Night Court says in his opening voiceover–but its’ a trick. The real story is nothing like Texas Chainsaw.The idea that it could be true makes the horror more potent.
The Conjuring similarly pretends to be based on the truth but is 90 percent bullshit.
Dallas Myers AKA, by the pen name Jack Ketchum wrote his book The Girl Next Door based on the true story of Silvia Likens, a young girl who was taken in by a family tasked with babysitting her for the summer, the woman kept her in a basement, tortured her, even got some of the neighborhood kids in on it.
Unlike The Conjuring, The Girl Next Door does not exaggerate the horror much. The real-life story is as disturbing as any movie.
The idea that this is true sends shivers up the audience’s spine. By finding something that is based on truth, even if you are going to exaggerate–like I’m pretty sure the real Warrens aren’t superheroes and Annabelle didn’t look like this, she looked like this. But the suggestion that something really happened will unsettle your audience even if they know it’s bullshit…
And good news for horror creators–the world is constantly producing new horrors for us to be inspired by
6. Use SUSPENSE.
Many horror writers make the mistake of going for the quick scare, but the real art of horror is creating that feeling of dread, and extending it and extending it..
Hitchcock lays out his rules for suspense in an interview….
Imagine two men, talking about baseball. A BOMB goes off.
What if instead, we tell the audience there is a bomb under the table…
We pose a question, and then extend the release of that tension, refusing to lessen it until the audience is worked into a frenzy.
Suspense is what turns the horror film into an amusement ride that the audience’s back again and again…
Hitchcock’s method was…
1. Introduce a TENSION by giving the audience knowledge our hero doesn’t have….
2. Extend that tension. Extend. Extend. Extend.
3. And then in the end, you must give an answer that is unexpected….
The greatness of playing with the idea of suspense is you don’t need a lot of scenes to fill the story, you just need a few good ones, and then you milk those for all you can..
7. Know the GENRE
Horror movie fans are one of the most rabid fan-bases around, they consume everything horror, searching out the newest and most original.
These fans know the genre. They know the tropes, and they expect their films to deliver on the genre and get off on the filmmakers playing with or subverting the conventions…
In DALE & TUCKER vs EVIL, a group of teenagers stumbles upon two southern men who appear to be Texas Chainsaw Massacre types but are really two nice guys that just happen to be blue collar with heavy accents…
As the teenagers run from them they one by one suffer horrific accidents….
The movie works because it plays with and subverts the audience’s understanding of the genre….
As in You’re Next… It tells the familiar story of a family stuck in an old dark house in the middle of nowhere surrounded by masked psychos….
But this time, a girl invited to the party is a trained survivalist and fighter…. Horror creators don’t have to reinvent the genre, we want new slashers, new haunted houses, new takes on zombies & werewolves and vampires….
Storytellers can play with the genre knowing the horror fan is always searching for that new twist on an old tale…
8. Make it a tragedy….
Horror often follows the arc of tragedy. We need only look at the mother of all horror, Frankenstein, to see this.
Dr. Frankenstein has committed an act against the gods by creating life, and he pays for it with everything he loves. This pattern in tragedy is often repeated the horror may be the result of sin committed by the hero.
In Sinister, Ethan Hawke’s Ellison Oswalt moves his family into a haunted house. But little does his wife know, Ellison moved into the house knowing it had been the scene of a horrific crime so he could research it for his book. His transgression will cause him to lose everything.
In the Haunting of Hill House, Our main characterEleanor enters a haunted house as an experiment, but it is a way of escaping the trap of her real life. It is a way of not facing the truth. But Hill House is the wrong place for a tragic hero. And the house refuses to let go of Eleanor…
Tragedy works well in horror because the end, the most unsettling thing of all is letting the monster win…..
9. Be based.
Horror is transgressive at its heart. You can’t make horror that offends no one. This is why a good percentage of the population refuses to go near a horror movie… They don’t like their blood pressure to rise.
The term elevated horror is a terrible term. I hate it.- first of all horror BEGAN elevated…. Watch Cabinet of Dr. Caligari or the works of Val Lewton and you’ll see they’ve been doing this kind of art-horror from the very beginning…
But elevated does not mean of a “higher mind”… This is base art. Horror lives and dies in the gutter and anyone who tries to make a horror movie that doesn’t dare offend will make something toothless and unmemorable.
The most elevated horror I’ve seen in the past decade is Julia Decarnou’s RAW. It is a legitimate cinematic masterpiece and one of the best-directed films I’ve ever seen. But it is far from elevated.It lives in the gutter.
There’s a scene where a woman trims her sister’s pubic hair, resulting in the loss of a finger. A scene where a girl vomits strings of human hair. A scene where a girl bites a man’s lip off.
This is base, nasty stuff, even when it is considered art.
10. Don’t explain…
Horror works best when there is no explanation, we don’t want to know the inner workings of the creature from the Thing…. It just is.
Don’t tell me it comes from planet Zorblog.Don’t tell me its plans. Trying to make it all make sense ruins the mystery for the audience… We don’t know how the Thing is or what it wants from us. The rules are unclear and that is okay.Think how much more frightening this is than the aliens from Independence Day. Or think about how much scarier the Xenomorphs are in Alien than they are when you find out what they are in Prometheus.
In the book, WIRED FOR STORY Lisa Kron tells us that The human brain needs to make sense of things. It needs to create order, to fit things into categories… This is why we tell stories.. But in horror, we deny the brain what it wants… We are reminded us the unsettling truth that there are things that do not add up, things that cannot be explained, even by science.
In the end, the picture that shows Jack Torrance has been at Overlook for decades makes no sense and it doesn’t need to. That is what is so disturbing about it.