Posts Tagged ‘script consulting’

June 16th, 2010  Posted at   screenwriting, script consultant, script consulting

As a script consultant, determining the theme of a script is one of the areas I often focus on with writers. Figuring out what your story is really about is essential to the success of your piece. Without a clear central idea, the script can easily lose its way and the audience is unlikely to connect to the film.

Focusing the theme of your script can be surprisingly difficult and there are many theories on what your theme should be. I’m a little more flexible on that front and look to the main character and their journey to define what the story is really about.

 One way to approach fine-tuning your theme is to look at your protagonist’s arc. Generally what your story is about is articulated by what the protagonist learns over the course of the piece.

With this in mind…

The first act defines the main character’s primary goal. Ideally they should have a conscious goal (external) and a subconscious goal (internal). For example in Up Carl’s conscious goal is to fulfill his and Ellie’s lifelong dream of getting to South America. Subconsciously he’s looking to reconcile his grief and the loss of his wife.

The end of the first act is a twist that complicates their goal and raises the question: will our protagonist achieve what they want?

As the story progresses through the second act the main character encounters escalating complications on the way to achieving their goal. The end of the second act is the protagonist’s lowest point, an all-is-lost moment where it seems they are not going to achieve their goals.

Still with me? Because this is where the theme is most clearly articulated…

The second act turning point forces the protagonist to look at why they haven’t achieved what they wanted and leads to an epiphany that tells us what the story is really about.

In Up the second act turning point is when Carl is forced to choose between saving his house, which Muntz has set on fire, and helping Russell rescue Kevin who has been taken by Muntz. Carl, unable to let go of his connection to Ellie, chooses his house and in doing so upsets Russell.

Carl retreats to the house and sadly looks through his scrapbook where he finds a note from Ellie thanking him for the adventure of their life together and encouraging him to go on a new one. This causes Carl to look at his situation from a new perspective. It’s Carl’s epiphany and the moment that tells us that, while the story is a fun adventure, it’s really about reconciling loss. Carl has actually achieved his subconscious goal.

This beat reinvigorates Carl and he goes off to look for Russell only to find he’s taken a handful of balloons and set off to rescue Kevin himself. Carl, having learned what he needed to learn, chooses to go after Russell. The climax is a do-or-die battle that tests Carl’s commitment to Russell.

The resolution of the piece shows Carl stepping up for Russell at the Boy Scout meeting and confirms that Carl has indeed reconciled the loss of Ellie and is willing to move on to the next adventure. Because Carl’s epiphany is so clear, and extremely moving, the piece resonates and it’s easy to see what the theme of the movie really is.

Looking at your protagonist’s arc, specifically their epiphany and emotional transformation, can be one way to see if your theme is being articulated clearly enough for it to have the emotional impact it should.

June 2nd, 2010  Posted at   screenwriting, script consultant, script consulting

Sometimes it’s not until we look back that we can see how the events of our lives have led us to where we are and those seemingly inconsequential moments suddenly take on a whole new light.

As a script consultant that’s what I do when I work on your script. I look at each beat and connect the dots to see what the overall significance and meaning is. Like this:

True Story. At 8 years old I’d memorize the entire TV guide every week. If someone in the family wanted to know what was on they didn’t flip through the guide – they asked me. I always knew.

True Story. The movie Diva (1981) changed my life. My older sister, just back from college, dragged me to the subtitled French-language film. I asked so many questions in the first 10 minutes that she hissed at me to shut up and refused to clarify my confusion. So for the very first time I was forced to sit back and actually watch a movie. Breathtaking. Spellbinding. The music from Diva haunts me still.

True Story. While waitressing in Victoria, BC one of the regulars, a local TV/movie producer, asked me if I’d associate produce a telethon with him. I reminded him that while I was a struggling writer and artist I was really just a waitress. He didn’t care. I figured he wanted a date. But he didn’t. He really did want someone to work with him because his regular associate producer / talent coordinator was out of town. Timmy’s Telethon was 21 hours of live television broadcast throughout Vancouver Island every spring. OK, it was pretty hokey but we raised a bunch of money for kids and it kick started my career in film and television. If it wasn’t for Arthur Rabin I’d probably still be serving Margaritas and chicken wings to unruly college boys.

True Story. Sold everything I had to move to LA for a development job working with writer/director John Kent Harrison. That was just about 15 years ago. Dropped the desk job when I had my two kids but kept working in the part of movie making I like best. Screenwriting. Working with writers, directors and producers to develop material. Telling stories.

This is mine. I can help you tell yours.