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Making your A, B, and C Stories Work in your Rewrite

by Paul Chitlik

In every movie of quality, there are three stories going on either simultaneously or in close proximity. One of the first things you need to look at when you approach a rewrite is to make sure all the stories are fulfilled and in the right proportions. The closer they are in theme and proximity, the better. They should support each other and the script as a whole. Knowing what they are and how to integrate them will make your script more consistent and stronger in its core. Here’s how I do it and how we talk about it in my seminars.

You already know the first two stories, commonly referred to as the A story and the B story. Let’s make those clear. The A story is what most people would call the plot. It’s the journey of your central character from the seemingly normal life s/he starts out with through the perilous quest for whatever his/her goal is. Yes, in a good story, that goal will change at the midpoint, but, for the most part, this is what people would call the central story of your picture.

The B story is less clear, though. This is the story of the central emotional relationship as seen through the eyes of the protagonist. In other words, the love interest in a romance or romantic comedy, the friend in the buddy pic, the kid in a father/daughter picture. This is the emotional heart of the picture, and even a rough and tumble picture like “Die Hard” has one. As a matter of fact, that’s what makes the picture so memorable – it has a heart. In every movie, there is a relationship to be established or repaired. That’s the B story. Making sure your B story is solid will add depth and emotion to your script, making it easier for the audience to relate to.

In a somewhat tricky reversal, in a romance or romantic comedy, the A story becomes the B story and the B story becomes the A story. Let’s have a look at two very different movies, “Die Hard” and “Life as We Know It.”

In “Die Hard,” there’s no doubt that the A story is about the takeover of the skyscraper by a terrorist group, though the movie starts out as a relationship pic – Willis’s John McClane is going out to Los Angeles to see if he can win his family back, or at least pay them a civil visit. Soon, the terrorists take over the building his wife works in and hold her and the other workers hostage. McClane’s goal becomes clear: defeat the terrorists, free the hostages, and get his wife back. In the end, he does them all, but the emphasis is definitely on dealing with Hans and his gang. And yet, he could have just walked away from all this had his wife not been a hostage, so the heart of the story is the relationship. That’s what engages the audience.

In “Life” the Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel characters are tasked with taking care of a little girl together. Though that is ostensibly the story, the real story is their romance and how it will take off and eventually influence what appears to be their primary goal as a couple. In fact, since it is a romantic comedy, the B story has become the A story – the more important story – and the A story has become the B story – the taking care of the child.

Okay, confused yet? Because there’s a C story in most every film, too. That’s the story of the character’s change, what most people call the “character arc.” Obviously this story goes hand in hand with the others, but it’s a good idea to have a clear grasp of a) what the character’s flaw is; b) when he realizes that flaw; and c) how he overcomes that flaw in the final challenge (climax).

So, how to best get a grip on these stories and use them to guide you through the rewrite? After reading through your latest draft, see if you can sketch out the seven points of each story. Briefly, the seven points are 1) the ordinary life of the character; 2) the inciting incident; 3) the end of act one – goal and plan; 4) the midpoint wherein the story goes off in a new direction and your character develops a more important goal; 5) the low, or all is lost, point; 6) the final challenge wherein your protagonist defeats his antagonist; and 7) the return to the now forever changed ordinary life.

Almost every movie can be seen in this way from “The Wizard of Oz” to “Avatar.” Organizing your script this way can simplify the rewrite process.

Yes, many of the points will (should) coincide. That means you’ve done your job well. But if you can’t identify the points of, say, the B story, then you have some work to do. If there is no C story, then you have some character work to do.

So, the first thing you must do is organize the A, B, and C stories from the point of view of the central character. Once you have these outlined (and they shouldn’t take more than a page each), it’s a good idea to twist your perspective around and look at the A story from the points of view of the person who is the central emotional relationship, and the person or force who is the antagonist. Then write the seven points of their stories. Of course, the antagonist doesn’t triumph in the end, but he has wants and needs (goals if you will) in the same way a protagonist does. And instead of a flaw, you might identify his human quality, the one that lifts him up from being just a two-dimensional villain. Doing this will give your antagonist more of a sense of purpose and will give your audience a better appreciation of his motives. It will also make for a fair fight and maybe even a little ambiguity, which is a good thing. Layers and depth, that’s what you’re looking to add in a rewrite.

Writing the wants and needs of the person who is the central emotional relationship of your protagonist will lend that person and that relationship depth as well. If you don’t find them in your story, that’s another factor you will need to consider adding during the rewrite. It’s really the emotional story which grips people and makes us care about what happens to the protagonist in the A story. Once you’ve got all these stories outlined, you can then go back and make sure that you’ve expressed them well and interwoven them into your script.

If you’ve just re-read your script, none of this re-outlining should take long. The mere fact of knowing each story in your script from each character’s POV will get you closer to a professionally polished screenplay. And any extra time you take to layer in new discoveries you make about your characters will be well rewarded with a richer, more meaningful, and emotional screenplay. In other words, it will make it a movie you and millions of others would like to see.

Paul Chitlik, screenwriter/producer/director, has written for all the major networks and studios. He was story editor for “The New Twilight Zone,” and staff writer for Showtime’s “Brothers.” He has written features for Rysher Entertainment, NuImage, Promark, and others. He received a WGA award nomination for his work on “The Twilight Zone,” a GLAAD Media Award nomination, and won a Genesis Award for a Showtime movie.

This article was reprinted with the permission of The Writers Store.

A Brief History of Conspicuous Product Placement in Movies

Video editor Oliver Noble of FilmDrunk brings us this video history of product placement in the movies. You may be surprised to learn the first film that won an Oscar for best picture (“Wings”) had product placements. Although, I’m sure it wont surprise anyone to learn that Michael Bay won “The Whore Award” for a record 47 product placements in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession

Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) is a documentary about Los Angeles pay cable channel Z Channel that accompanied the DVD release of uncut version of Heaven’s Gate. It was screened out of competition at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

The film was directed by Xan Cassavetes , daughter of the late Hollywood director and actor John Cassavetes.

The documentary is about Z Channel which was one of the first pay cable TV stations in the US. Z Channel became famous for showing an eclectic variety of films, including foreign language, silent, documentary, director’s cut, forgotten, overlooked, under-appreciated, erotic as well as mainstream films, without commercials and uncut and letterbox-ed when possible.

The film also tells the story of Z Channel’s programming director Jerry Harvey who was a true film lover, programming genius, and a man almost single handedly responsible for getting many great films shown to the public. It gives insights into Harvey’s constant battle with personal demons which resulted in him ending his own life and the life of his wife in a murder-suicide. Throughout the film a variety of footage featuring some of the films shown on the Z Channel is used. This serves to underline the diversity offered on the channel in particular its attempts to expose its American viewers to undubbed foreign language films. The films ends with a montage of scenes of such films with Irving Berlin’s “What’ll I Do?” theme being played over the top of them as performed by the actor William Atherton from the film The Great Gatsby (1974).

You can purchase the full documentary here.

How Google can ban filmmakers for life without reason.

by Dennis

Since the dawn of the interwebs filmmakers looked to it as a new magical tool that may finally allow us to breakdown traditional walls opening up a whole new world. We all envisioned a future of social collaboration, new financing models and open distribution. So are the walls coming down or are we just creating new ones?

We are a long way from any sort of filmmaker utopia, but there has been some small progress since the days when AOL would flood your mailbox with CD-ROMs. One of the biggest steps forward was the development of viral videos. Finally open distribution! But, of course the 800 pound sneezing panda in the room is; how do you make money off this shit?

Google to the rescue! You know, that little mom and pop company with the slogan “do no evil.” Google (who owns YouTube, Adsense and your soul) came to the conclusion they couldn’t continue to make billions off of your videos without eventually having to throw a few crumbs to the actual content creators.

In a effort to help starving filmmakers Google decided to create a “Partner Program” using Adsense to pay Youtube video creators a small percentage of ad revenue (derived using a secret algorithm). This partner program is only open to a very small group of content creators (derived using a secret algorithm).

Sounds like a good start, so what’s the problem?

At any point Google Adsense can freeze your account and stop payment on your check if their computer believes (derived using a secret algorithm… see a trend?) you violated the Terms of Service.

Now of course you can’t run a site that big and have humans watch everything. With millions of assholes trying to run scams they need to be somewhat diligent. No one is denying them that, but this about what happens after the Google Cyber Cops send you that auto-generated email of death.

Before we go any further…..

This article is not about Google/YouTube removing videos (that’s another story). This is a case where the videos remained, they just stopped paying the creator (I know, they have never paid you anything at all, but that again is another story).

In his article “Adsense, no sense at all -what it’s like being sacked by a computer…” Dylan Winter (“97th biggest reporter on YouTube ever”) outlines how Google froze his account, took back money he already earned in his account and stopped payment on another check; all without proof of volition or even telling him what rule he violated.

On Monday the 13th of December – two weeks before Christmas – I was sacked by a Google algorithm.

It sent an email to me and summarily killed my main source of income. No humans were involved in this process at all. It was, literally, the most inhumane letting go I have ever experienced.

As well as ‘letting me go’ the Google Algorithm also confiscated all my earned income October 31st to December 13th. Tough indeed – and no human has ever done that to me; they have always paid me for work done.

Then twio days before Christmas I got a letter from my bank saying that the check for October – worth £1,700 had been stopped. That is £3,700 gone from my family fiancés in the two weeks before Chisitmas.

Welcome to the world of Google. Kafka would be proud of Google, whilst Orwell would be perfectly unsurprised.

Here is the first email Google sent him:

Hello,

After reviewing our records, we’ve determined that your AdSense account poses a risk of generating invalid activity. Because we have a responsibility to protect our AdWords advertisers from inflated costs due to invalid activity, we’ve found it necessary to disable your AdSense account. Your outstanding balance and Google’s share of the revenue will both be fully refunded to the affected advertisers.
Please understand that we need to take such steps to maintain the effectiveness of Google’s advertising system, particularly the advertiser-publisher relationship. We understand the inconvenience that this may cause you, and we thank you in advance for your understanding and cooperation.

If you have any questions or concerns about the actions we’ve taken, how you can appeal this decision or invalid activity in general, you can find more information by visiting www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153

Yours sincerely,
The Google AdSense Team

Here is his reply to Google:

I filled in the tiny boxes on the link they gave me and submitted the following answers:

27_TrafficSources: they are subscribers. I promote the site through keepturningleft on YouTube and by being active in the sailing forums in the UK, USA and Australia. This is a classic 1,000 true fans operation. They are keen sailors and they are watching my well produced sailing films

28_AdvertiserValue: sailors who love sailing and who have heard about the films from other sailors

29_UserIncentive: Some of them click adverts to support the films – they have emailed me and told me so. I tell them not to but to only click on adverts that are of interest to them

31_InvalidActivity: I have two sources of Adsense revenue – the main one is from my YouTube space that has 1.5 million hits a month. Dylanwinter1. Films about trucks; one has had 13 million hits.
#7 – Most Viewed (All Time) – Reporters

#92 – Most Viewed (All Time) – Reporters – Global

Impossible for me to influence clicking on that site. 50,000 hits a day.It gets a click through rate of between 1 per cent and .5 per cent.

The subscription sailing site gets a higher rate – much higher after I post a new film – extremely erratic but I have no idea how such sites should perform. I only have this one website – www.keepturningleft.co.uk

The sailing website www.keepturningleft.co.uk is a small subscription only website. I cannot control their clicking activity however, it is a download site so they have to wait for the films to buffer. One man did email me to tell me that he looks at the adverts while waiting for the films to buffer.

Many of them have turned off their adblockers. One man said that he had saved himself £50 on his boat insurance. For some of them these are the first sailing related adverts they have ever seen.

I also have an Amazon box on the site – that brings in about £80 a week at the moment.

A sailing advertiser has bought space on the site and is extremely pleased with the response.

I will quite understand if you decide to kill the Adsense account for the sailing website if, as you report, it is producing some weird click-through patterns – however, disabling Adsense for my YouTube activities seems counter-intuitive. I am very happy to provide you with a login for the website so that you can assess it for yourself

Yours sincerely, etc etc

Google’s reply to his appeal:

Hello,

Thank you for your appeal. We appreciate the additional information you’ve provided, as well as your continued interest in the AdSense programme.

However, after thoroughly re-reviewing your account data and taking your feedback into consideration, our specialists have confirmed that we’re unable to reinstate your AdSense account.

As a reminder, if you have any questions or concerns about your account, the actions we’ve taken or invalid activity in general, you can find more information by visiting

www.google.com/adsense/support/bin/answer.py?answer=57153

Sincerely,
The Google AdSense Team

Outrageous TOS agreements are nothing new on interwebs, but Google takes the cake.

The Adsense contract is a beautiful piece of work. One of my subscribers is a lawyer. She looked at the contract and said “wow – this is a beautiful and incredibly expensive piece of work. These guys employ the best.” Her advice? Don’t bother fighting Google.

Let’s take a closer look at Google’s Adsense terms:

  • Google reserves the right to refuse participation to any applicant or participant at any time in its sole discretion.
  • You may not create a new account to use the Program after Google has terminated this Agreement with You as a result of your breach of this Agreement
  • Engage in any action or practice that reflects poorly on Google or otherwise disparages or devalues Google’s reputation or goodwill.
  • Google reserves the right to withhold payment or charge back Your account due to any of the foregoing or any breach of this Agreement by You.

Every company has the right to set their own rules, including not allowing you to use their service. I’ve always hated it when someone goes on about how some private company censored them. I would always think, it’s only censorship if it’s the government. If you don’t like their service don’t use it. After all, there are other video hosts that pay content creators, such as Revver and Blip.tv (stop laughing).

But….

Has Google become more powerful than governments? They surely are on the internet.

I don’t think Google is evil or has some secret plot to defraud and destroy filmmakers. They create lots great products I use everyday. I also believe they will play a important role in advancing indie film (and already have). They just need to be reminded from time to time not to be evil.

11 Amazing Videos Created with Trapcode Particular – After Effects Plugin

Red Giant Software’s Trapcode Particular (After Effects Plugin) is a powerful 3D particle system that creates a wide range of effects from natural smoke and explosions to geometric or organic abstract elements.

Along with big budget movies like; Spider Man 3 and Angels & Demons, Particular is also used by indie filmmakers everywhere to create amazing videos like those below.

by Najork
Testing out Trapcode Particular 2, ON THE STREET! Sound design by skeletonsuit.com – Shot with a little Canon SD960. Tracked with PFHoe Pro pfhoe.com

by Sebastian Langnickel
I created the particle cloud with AE and Trapcode Partikular v2. The tv bumper is made for MaxTv Dubai and produced by a german post company “Acht Frankfurt visual catering”

by Pierre MICHEL
Trailer for the 12th polar festival in paris.
“Pierre Michel has recently posted two intense spots, one for AVP and one called Polar 2007. Each uses vfx-powered visuals and water-based tableaux to create drama, but I find the editing and sound design to be just as powerful as the imagery. Both spots have a kind of a over-the-top, melodramatic flair that some may be turned off by, but personally I want to crawl into these worlds and hang out for a bit.” (motionographer)

by KU-SCHNEIDER
“This is a video for the launch of a new identity for the danish communication design company Aakjærs. The idea for the video was to communicate the core values of the new identity in an abstract, subtle and visually beautiful way.”

by Esteban Diácono
“I’ve used Trapcode Particular 2 to create the particles, of course, and two Trapcode Sound Keys layers to drive the position, velocity and a few turbulence and spin parameters.” Esteban’s site: estebandiacono.tv

by Rami Lob
Experimental Work created with After Effects & Particular 2

by KU-SCHNEIDER
“Part of my bachelor project in Media Production, University of Applied Sciences Darmstadt, Germany, 2008. Features music by Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto (with friendly permission of the artist).”

by Marcus Eckert
Something more abstract if you will. Music from musopen.com.

by TAKCOM takafumitsuchiya.com
For full 5.1 effect, use headphones. Play loud! Download The Vital EP for free: officialvital.com
Music Producer: Christopher Clark – Executive Producer: Frank Alioto Jr. – A&R: Mathias Sorum- Copyright ©2010  – Black Sky Recordings LLC.

by Chris Lavelle
The finished piece. An experimental piece based around particle system generated by music and sound, pieced together to create a narrative of a cycle of life. Hopefully reflecting warmth, confusion discomfort and peace. This is the final version. Using Trapcode particular 2 and after effects. oh! and soundkeys.

By Tiny Inventions
An animated dark comedy about a vacationing couple’s encounter with a man they believe to be the Zodiac Killer.  Based on a true story. Direction/Animation/Design/Writing:  Max Porter & Ru Kuwahata – For an extensive making-of visit:  tinyinventions.com/blog/?p=317

iPod/iPad friendly version on Vimeo.

How Oscar Scripts Really Work

by John Truby

Whether a screenplay deserves an Oscar nomination depends on how it reads on the page and plays on the screen. But if you want to learn how Hollywood’s best screenwriters got that way, you have to begin by determining the challenges they faced at the outset of their tasks. Then you can identify, and learn, the techniques they used to meet the challenges.

For Oscar nominees, these techniques typically fall into three major categories: mixing and transcending genres, and connecting character to plot to theme. Best script nominees, even when they are indie films, not only combine two or three genres, they tend to come up with unique hybrids, or mashups, where the genres play off each other in ways we haven’t seen. These top scripts also transcend their primary form, which means the writer has twisted the genre beats in an original way so the film stands above the crowd.

Tying character to plot to theme is actually an entire set of techniques designed to create a seamless, organic story, an original living thing that shows real people grappling with life problems. Let’s look at how the writers of three likely script nominees use these techniques to create the best scripts of the year.

It would be hard to find more severe challenges than those faced by Christopher Nolan in writing Inception, certainly one of the favorites to win Best Original Screenplay. This is a story set in the dream world. So Nolan’s first problem was how to create a plot that doesn’t quickly spiral out of control into utter confusion. An even bigger problem was how to generate deep emotion when the story takes place in a dream world and the hero’s family, for whom he is fighting, is never present in the story.

Nolan’s most brilliant move in writing this script may have been in combining two genres that are almost never together: science fiction and caper. Science fiction is the biggest of all genres, as huge as the universe and beyond. That’s why it’s so notoriously difficult to write well. It has a broad, loose structure that covers vast scales of space and time. The caper, also known as the heist film, is among the tightest and most focused of forms, built on a specific and high-speed desire line. That’s why caper stories are almost always popular.

By combining these virtually opposite forms, Nolan allows the audience to have their cake and eat it too. They get the epic power of science fiction with the driving speed of the caper.

Using the caper gives Nolan one other big advantage. The caper is one of the most plot-heavy of all genres, right up there with detective stories and thrillers, and is designed to fool not only the opponent in the story but also the audience. Nolan juices the plot even more by creating three levels of the dream world, using the technique of “revelation plot.” Plot in this kind of story comes from digging deeper and deeper into the same world, with each new level providing a whole new batch of reveals, and thus plot, for the audience.

Nolan’s work in Inception confirms his position as the premiere master of plot in Hollywood screenwriting. But there’s a catch. All this plot can kill emotion if you are not extremely careful in how you connect the plot to the character. I’m not talking about the other members of the team, which is where most caper stories gain their emotional juice. Think of the buddy camaraderie among the Ocean’s Eleven team. I’m talking about the hero’s wife and children. From the beginning of the film, the wife is already dead so there is no chance to get to know her or see her interact in the present with the hero. What interaction they do have is tainted by the fact that she is morose, deadly and generally a real drag. Supposedly the hero is doing all this to get back with his kids, but again he has no personal interaction with them, except to see them as an unreachable image.

Nolan’s unique genre combination and his incredible plotting may be enough to win him the Best Original Screenplay prize. But the lack of emotional payoff as the film moves toward the end is a flaw that may be too serious for other writers to accept.

Aaron Sorkin faced a very different set of challenges when he adapted the book “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich for The Social Network. First he had to make a true story dramatic. Events in real life rarely have the dramatic density and punch of fiction, especially when the events involve the formation of a business. Also, the actual events of the building of Facebook suggest a rise story, with no fall, a story shape that has no plot.

Sorkin’s third major challenge was a nasty main character, Mark Zuckerberg, guilty of massive theft and betrayal. No one in the audience wants to identify with someone this unpleasant (though they may want this much success), or see such a person accomplish his goal. So the writer is left with a character who is at most clinically interesting to the audience, much like a strange beast in the zoo.

The main technique Sorkin used to solve these challenges is the Story Frame, a technique found in a vast number of true stories because it allows the writer to solve the form’s biggest restriction, which is the anti-dramatic sequence of true events. In The Social Network, the frame is provided by the depositions in which Zuckerberg has to answer to the Winklevoss brothers and Mark’s business partner, Eduardo Saverin, for his theft. Like most frames, the depositions are the chronological endpoint of the story. They are the story equivalent of a trial, or battle, which allows Sorkin a natural funnel point toward which all plot events build. The frame also lets Sorkin cut out the boring moments that are part of real life, along with the mundane but necessary steps of building a business.

But Sorkin clearly knew that this structure still left him with a thin plot. In my Memoir-True Story class, I talk about how to combine fiction genres with a true story to juice the plot. Sorkin’s inspired choice was the thriller form. The thriller is a type of story in which the hero is placed under constant attack and increasing pressure as he goes after his goal. Like the story frame, this genre combination creates a vortex in which events assault the viewer at a faster and faster pace. To see how much this helps the plot, imagine telling the story of the creation of a business, even one that grew this fast, in a strictly non-fiction, chronological style.

Sorkin largely overcomes his biggest challenge, the repellant hero, using a structural technique that is both rare and risky: Sorkin turns the hero into the opponent, and the ally, Eduardo, into the hero. Instead of trying to create sympathy for a bad guy, Sorkin changes the focus of the story to the question: will the bad guy lose the deposition and have to pay the people he cheated? Eduardo literally tells the second half of the story, making him the hero, and he gains the audience’s sympathy because he has so clearly been wronged.

Toy Story 3 gives us even more proof, if any were still needed, that Pixar makes the best-written films in Hollywood. For the last fifteen years, their films have provided a strong argument for why the screenwriter is the true “author” of a film.

This script has some serious lineage. Story writers include John Lasseter, who also worked on the story for 1 and 2, and Andrew Stanton, who wrote the story and script for Wall-E and Finding Nemo, and the script for Monsters, Inc. The Toy Story 3 script was written by Michael Arndt, who won Best Original Screenplay for the amazing Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. Like I say, Pixar knows it’s all about the script.

These great writers faced some tough challenges of their own. First and foremost, Toy Story 3 is the third in a series, which usually guarantees that the script will be noticeably weaker than the previous two. But the writers also have to deal with the problems that come with a tricky combination of genres, in this case, myth + action + comedy. For example, how do you avoid the episodic quality of most myth journey stories? How do you tap into real emotion in a fast-moving action story?

The main technique the writers used to overcome these challenges was to create a prison break action comedy, and then combine it with elements of family drama to transcend the form and create stronger emotional involvement. In my Myth Class, I talk about one of the best techniques for overcoming the episodic quality of most myth stories: bring the family along for the ride. The writers use this technique perfectly when they make sure that all the toys except Woody are trapped in the day care center together. But they take the techniques of family drama even further when they make Andy’s impending trip to college the fulcrum of the story.

One of the main ways you connect character to plot to theme is with the story’s desire line. Desire is one of the seven major structure steps, and it provides the story’s spine. Here the goal is to get back home, a goal we’ve seen in myth stories from The Odyssey through The Wizard of Oz. In Toy Story 3, this goal gives us the “clothesline” on which to hang the myriad jokes and gags – the Barbie and Ken stuff is priceless – without stalling the story. And it gives us an organic tie between character, plot and theme, which is the value of home and community in making a good life.

The drive to bring everyone home sets the main plotline. But the writers knew that line wouldn’t provide enough thrills. So they increased the density of the plot through the crosscut, the fundamental technique of the action form. Through the middle of the story, we go back and forth between the toys trapped in the day care center and Woody trying to get them out.

The ending is where this film surpasses the other potential nominees and highlights the most advanced techniques of the screenwriting craft. The characters have all returned home, but they are divided as they have been throughout the film. The other toys go into the attic box; Woody is in the box that Andy will take to college.

But Woody is wiser than Andy. He sacrifices his love for the boy so he can rejoin the community of his friends. And then he gets Andy to give all the toys to the little girl around the block who will play with them as only a child’s imagination can. When Andy plays with his toys one last time along with the little girl, he becomes Wendy, the adult saying goodbye, while Woody, Buzz and the other fabulous toys are the Peter Pan that will always remain young. The pain is bittersweet, and there isn’t a dry eye in the house.

That is what great screenwriting is all about, and what I hope the Academy screenwriters will celebrate this year when they cast their vote.

About the Author:

John Truby coaches top writers for the screen and television, has created software for the working writer, has served as story consultant for major studios and production companies, and as script doctor on movies, sit-coms and dramas for television. He founded Truby’s Writers Studio where he teaches writing techniques and has created a number of books, audiotapes and other essential tools for the writer, all of which are available through the Writers Store.

Source with Permission: The Writers Store

DSLR DIY Pocket Dolly

This is a version of a diy pocket dolly, driven by an adjustable 12V gear motor. The power comes from 8 AA rechargeable batteries, which are integrated into the controller. The dolly is pretty light and compact so that it fits in a backpack and can travel well.

VIA: Ben

There are two motors which you can replace within a minute.

1.Motor: Slow =24min / 1m(3,3ft), Fast=2min /1m(3,3ft)
2.Motor: Slow=2min / 1m(3,3ft), Fast=10sec/1m (3,3ft)

The slow motor is good for time-lapse recordings and macro slides the fast motor is good for everything else.

With the the fast motor still some problems because it transmits vibrations to the camera. The video was made solely with the slow motor. It works quite well.

The solution with the gearmotors is actually a compromise. It is better to take a stepper motor, but it is a bit more complicated.

The slot in the aluminum was made with a normal router (if you want to imitate that, please protect your eyes).

A few more detailed information:

twoa.lima-city.de/?dolly.html

The Fatal Flaw – The Most Essential Element for Bringing Characters to Life

By Dara Marks

Growth is the by-product of a cycle that occurs in nature; that which flowers and fruits will also eventually wither and go to seed. The seed, of course, contains the potential for renewal, but does not guarantee it, nor does the seed instantly spring to new life. There is a necessary dormancy where the possibility of death holds life in suspended animation. In the cycles of our own lives, these near-death moments are rich with heightened dramatic possibilities that the writer wants to capitalize upon.

These are the moments in the human drama where the stakes are the highest, where our choices matter the most: What’s it going to be, life or death? For a story to be dramatically interesting and thematically important, the protagonist must be at the point of great internal combustibility, where the conflict in his or her outer life demands inner transformation if survival is to be achieved.

This brings up the most essential demand for a well-dramatized script: In order to create a story that expresses the arc of transformation, a need for that transformation must be established. It is within this context that I can best define the fatal flaw of character.

First, it’s important to highlight the fundamental - organic – premise on which the fatal flaw is based:

* Because change is essential for growth, it is a mandatory requirement for life.
* If something isn’t growing and developing, it can only be headed toward decay and death.
There is no condition of stasis in nature. Nothing reaches a permanent position where neither growth nor diminishment is in play.

As essential as change is to renew life, most of us resist it and cling rigidly to old survival systems because they are familiar and “seem” safer. In reality, even if an old, obsolete survival system makes us feel alone, isolated, fearful, uninspired, unappreciated, and unloved, we will reason that it’s easier to cope with what we know than with what we haven’t yet experienced. As a result, most of us will fight to sustain destructive relationships, unchallenging jobs, unproductive work, harmful addictions, unhealthy environments, and immature behavior long after there is any sign of life or value in them.

This unyielding commitment to old, exhausted survival systems that have outlived their usefulness, and resistance to the rejuvenating energy of new, evolving levels of existence and consciousness is what I refer to as the fatal flaw of character.

The FATAL FLAW is a struggle within a character to maintain a survival system long after it has outlived its usefulness.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey has committed himself to a survival system that operates under the assumption that if he takes care of everyone else, somehow, magically, his own needs will be met as well. There was a time in George’s life when developing his ability to care about the needs of others helped George grow into a more loving and less self-serving human being. Powerful feelings of self-worth accompanied these actions. He felt good about himself because he was getting as much as he was giving. His life had a balance to it. But there came a point of diminishing returns when the value of what was coming in was no longer equal to the value of what was going out. As more and more demands were made on George to put the needs of family and community above his own, his identity as a caretaker became fixed. Other aspects of George’s nature were suppressed or ignored and the only things that grew in their place were anger and resentment. The system of putting everyone else’s needs before his own was breaking down and George felt unhappy and unfulfilled, but he continued to heave all his energy outward until the day when there was absolutely nothing left. That was the day he decided to jump off a bridge.

The flaw in George’s limited perception of his own identity was about to prove fatal. Therefore, the real drama of the story centered on his ability to expand this self-perception by reclaiming his greater value before it was too late.

Identifying and utilizing the fatal flaw is one of the most powerful tools a writer can develop. It distinguishes an aspect of character that not only determines behavior, but also establishes the internal conflict that will ultimately drive the story. George’s fatal flaw, his inability to fulfill his own needs, is expressed in his behavior by portraying him as someone who takes care of everyone else’s needs at the expense of his own. The interior conflict that results in suicidal desperation is, therefore, not a random choice made by the writer. It is a logical consequence of George’s flawed perception that he is all used up.

A fatal flaw does not always relate directly to a physical death. It may foreshadow a more metaphorical death, a killing of dreams, desires, passion, identity, or any other aspect of the self that would open up to a greater, more expansive view of the character’s whole nature.

Most importantly, a fatal flaw is not a judgmental verdict that a writer places on a character, nor should it ever be a moral judgment. For example, if a sixteen-year-old has sex or gets drunk, it doesn’t mean he or she is fatally doomed. The fatal effect occurs when life stops, when growth and change are held back. Therefore, always look to the winter of a character’s cycle– “the winter of our discontent”– and ask what has become exhausted in terms of self-perception. A sixteen-year-old who is completely dependent on his or her parents to make all decisions may be in far more jeopardy of not maturing than the teen who casually experiments with sex, drugs, and rock and roll. This is not to say that a teen who exclusively uses artificial stimulus in place of developing real self-esteem isn’t in jeopardy as well, but it depends on the degree to which any system of survival is out of balance to everything else.

Identifying the fatal flaw instantly clarifies for the writer what the internal journey of the character will be. This is no small thing, because once the writer is clear about what the protagonist needs in terms of internal growth it will clarify the external conflict as well. The physical challenges in the plot serve the function of pushing the protagonist to grow past old boundaries that define who he or she is so that the person can potentially become someone greater by the end of the story.

Finding the Fatal Flaw

If the fatal flaw is determined by mere guesswork, or by trial and error until something feels right, the entire substructure of the script will be based on a random, arbitrary choice. The results, of course, will be random as well. To define the fatal flaw organically, so that it rises to meet the writer’s intentions, it must be drawn from the theme.

Because the fatal flaw reveals an aspect of character that can potentially destroy the opportunity for growth, it is always created around a value that opposes the theme and the internal goal for the protagonist.

Therefore, we can say that:

1. The fatal flaw represents the opposite value of the theme.
2. The fatal flaw is determined by inverting (finding the opposite value of) the internal goal of the theme.

For example, in Dead Poets Society, the theme of seize the day sets up as an internal goal for the protagonists; the need to be true to their own natures. Their fatal flaws, therefore, must be something in their character that betrays or is false toward their true nature.

Defining the fatal flaw of character greatly enhances the writer’s understanding of what is driving a story. In the breakdown of Dead Poets Society, we can see that the addition of the fatal flaw instantly turns all the other work we’ve done with the theme into tangible character development. We don’t yet have the details of how the co-protagonists will behave, but knowing that they are false to their nature gives a writer an enormous amount of information to work with.

There would be no conflict to resolve in Dead Poets Society if becoming true to their nature was something the boys were already good at. Therefore, when we first meet them in the setup of the film, it must be apparent that they are struggling against being true to their nature.

Once the fatal flaw is defined, it begins to provoke essential questions for the writer to ponder. Why would someone struggle against being true to their nature? What does being false to one’s true nature actually mean? And is it really possible to be false to one’s nature?

There are no specifically correct answers to these questions, but the technique of finding the fatal flaw demands that writers investigate their own perceptions of the theme. Most importantly, it channels the writer’s thinking toward issues that will ultimately play out the dramatic conflict that is implicit in the theme.

To see this more clearly, let’s put some skin on the bones of these characters who are being false to their nature. Because an idea like this can be interpreted in so many different ways, being false to one’s nature certainly doesn’t mean one specific thing. It can mean that a person is living a lie, hiding from himself or herself, hiding from others, living in fear, not being authentic, denying his or her own needs, and so on. The choices are vast and they need only to reflect the writer’s vision of the theme. This is why ten people can write a story about coming of age, utilizing the theme of being true to one’s nature, and each writer would have a very different story to tell.

Utilizing theme to determine the fatal flaw eliminates having to poke around in the dark, trying to define a character’s behavior and motivation randomly. If behavior and motivation don’t fall strictly in line with a writer’s thematic intention, they run a very high risk of becoming distracting and meaningless. On the other hand, in a film like Dead Poets Society, it’s easy to see how the protagonists’ behavior relates directly to being false to their nature. From the first frame of this movie forward there is an inauthentic, pretentious, and controlled atmosphere that surrounds the students, who themselves seem constrained and guarded. This behavior is highlighted even further when the boys find a moment to themselves and they instantly become more relaxed and self-confident, out of sight of authority figures. This focus on the contrast in their behavior clearly signals to the audience exactly where the source of their problems lies. The boys do not behave naturally out in the open, only in private where they feel safe. It makes them come across as deceptive and certainly insecure. One of the students even has difficulty acting naturally among his peers. He seems not only to be withdrawn but completely out of touch with what feels natural to him. Further, as the story develops, the effect of not expressing his true nature destabilizes one of the boys to the point of complete self-destruction.

In this script, deceptive, insecure, withdrawn, and unstable are all strong choices for creating characters who demonstrate what it looks like to be false to one’s nature. Here is what the thematic scheme of Dead Poets Society looks like once we add the character traits that were determined through the fatal flaw of character.

Dead Poets Society

SUBJECT OF THEME
Manhood

THEMATIC POINT OF VIEW
Carpe diem — Seize the day

SUBPLOT
(internal goal)
Be true to your nature

FATAL FLAW
Being false to your nature

CHARACTER TRAITS
Deceptive
Insecure
Withdrawn
Unstable

While there are many more details and complexities to be filled in, what this breakdown shows a writer is that there is a direct and authentic way to arrive at story choices that will support the writer’s vision and keep it focused on what he or she values.

Turning Theme into Character

When a film lacks a fatal flaw of character that is connected to the thematic spine of a story, the development of character traits for the protagonist often serves other agendas, such as making a character likeable, memorable, or politically correct. These types of choices seldom connect well or deeply with a writer’s thematic objectives and will render a story shallow and ineffective, even if it is well intentioned with strong thematic underpinnings.

Without a technique to consciously evaluate choices, writers can’t know what is motivating them. As a story consultant, I receive many scripts that have characters designed around a writer’s sense of wish fulfillment rather than reality. This often means that characters behave as alter egos, going where the writer is afraid to go in real life, which makes the characters idealized, stilted, and two-dimensional.

I once worked on a script with an extraordinary plot idea, but the first draft had such enormous problems with character development that the story was quite ineffective. The protagonist was a young man who had a cruel, domineering father, and in a pivotal scene he marched in and boldly told his dad to go to hell. Because this scene, in particular, had a very false-sounding ring to it, I attempted to get the writer to step into the shoes of the protagonist to try to bring his emotional reality to life. As we worked together, I asked him if he had any personal experiences that were similar to the father/son relationship depicted in the story. It took a minute before he responded, but surprise suddenly registered on his face. He confessed that up to that moment he had not consciously connected with the obvious. He did indeed have a terrible rapport with his own father, who was an intimidating tyrant. I then asked if this was how he would speak to his own father under the same circumstances and he visibly shuddered. We then improvised what this confrontation might actually have been like. It was uncomfortable, painful, and real. I not only cared about the young man in the story, I began to care about the callous father as well–and I certainly cared more about my client.

An interesting paradox occurred here: When the writer instinctively created a strong, invulnerable character to step in and fight his battles for him, the story itself lay impotent. However, when the writer got honest and connected his own ineffectual feelings with what the protagonist was experiencing, his story gained strength and power.

Source with permission: The Writers Store

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