Published on October 23, 2007
STORY OF THEME AND PLOT: STORY OF THEME AND PLOT JOHN RAINEY MFA RAINEY SCRIPT CONSULTING INTRODUCTION: INTRODUCTION Relationship between plot and theme Holistic process of screenwriting Character vs story idea Inspirational bits and pieces Audience participation exercise Dispelling a misperception Point-of-view character in a film STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 1 MAIN CHARACTER THAT TRANSFORMS: STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 1 MAIN CHARACTER THAT TRANSFORMS EXAMPLES CASABLANCA - Rick ADAPTATION - Charlie A FEW GOOD MEN - Danny THUNDERHEART - Ray JERRY McGUIRE - Jerry PULP FICTION – Jules STAR WARS – Luke GOOD WILL HUNTING - Will IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE – George MILLION DOLLAR BABY - Frankie …AND A ZILLION MORE STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 2MAIN CHARACTER THAT MAINTAINS STEADFAST VALUES : STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 2 MAIN CHARACTER THAT MAINTAINS STEADFAST VALUES EXAMPLES LEONE’S SPAGHETTI WESTERNS BRAVEHEART - William GLADIATOR - Maximus SPARTACUS - Spartacus BILLY JACK - Billy HIGH NOON – Marshal Will Kane SHANE - Shane PULP FICTION - Butch BEVERLY HILLS COP - Axel STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 3MAIN CHARACTER THAT TAKES A DESTRUCTIVE PATH: STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 3 MAIN CHARACTER THAT TAKES A DESTRUCTIVE PATH EXAMPLES CITIZEN KANE – Charles Foster Kane ANGEL HEART - Harry SCARFACE - Tony LOOKING FOR MISTER GOODBAR - Theresa MACBETH - Macbeth PULP FICTION - Vincent MEMENTO - Leonard TAXI DRIVER - Travis THE WILD BUNCH - Pike STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 42 main characters (ROMANTIC COMEDIES & BUDDY FILMS): STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 4 2 main characters (ROMANTIC COMEDIES & BUDDY FILMS) EXAMPLES -WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – Harry & Sally -MOONSTRUCK – Loretta & Ronny -YOU’VE GOT MAIL – Joe & Kathleen - SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE – Sam & Annie -TWO WEEKS NOTICE – Lucy & George -HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS – Ben & Andie -PRETTY WOMAN – Edward & Vivian -MIDNIGHT RUN – Jack & Jonathan -48 HOURS – Jack & Reggie -PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES – Neal & Del -ODD COUPLE – Felix & Oscar -THELMA AND LOUISE – Thelma & Louise STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 5 MULTIPLE CHARACTER PERSPECTIVE: STORY POINTS OF VIEW – 5 MULTIPLE CHARACTER PERSPECTIVE EXAMPLES TRAFFIC PULP FICTION THE BIG CHILL GRAND CANYON LOVE ACTUALLY SHORT CUTS NASHVILLE WELCOME TO L.A. AMERICAN BEAUTY SYRIANA INTRODUCTION TOMAIN CHARACTER THAT TRANSFORMS: INTRODUCTION TO MAIN CHARACTER THAT TRANSFORMS HERO(INE)’S JOURNEY STORY WHAT HOLLYWOOD LOOKS FOR IN SPECS THE TEMPLATE FOR MOST FILMS BEST FOR WRITING SAMPLE COHESIVE PLOT EMOTIONAL THEMATIC CENTER SOURCE OF STORY SPINE (STRUCTURE) DEFINITION OFMAIN CHARACTER THAT TRANSFORMS: DEFINITION OF MAIN CHARACTER THAT TRANSFORMS TAKES THE QUESTING JOURNEY MAKES EMOTIONALLY RISKY DECISIONS EXPERIENCES EXPANSION OF CONSCIOUSNESS BRINGS VALUES BACK INTO BALANCE REACHES A SATISFACTORY GOAL Main Character – 1 AS PROTAGONIST: Main Character – 1 AS PROTAGONIST CALLED HERO(INE) Examples A FEW GOOD MEN AN OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN THUNDERHEART CASABLANCA ON THE WATERFRONT THE WIZARD OF OZ MILLION DOLLAR BABY STAR WARS GOOD WILL HUNTING DIE HARD Main Character – 2DIFFERENT FROM PROTAGONIST: Main Character – 2 DIFFERENT FROM PROTAGONIST Examples SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION - Red TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD - Scout PRIMARY COLORS – Henry Burton ROSEMARY’S BABY - Rosemary MILLION-DOLLAR BABY – Frankie TERMINATOR – Sarah Conners V FOR VENDETTA - Evey MAIN CHARACTER’S JOURNEYS CREATE PLOT AND THEME: MAIN CHARACTER’S JOURNEYS CREATE PLOT AND THEME OUTER JOURNEY CREATES THE PLOT Decisions & Actions Creates Antagonist Creates Story Structure INNER JOURNEY CREATES THE THEME Story’s Emotional Engine Moral Dilemma Main Character’s arc PLOT & THEME COMBINE TO CREATE STORY SPINE THEME?: THEME? UNIVERSAL SUBJECT? TRAFFIC: drugs MILLION DOLLAR BABY: boxing STAR WARS: oppression PERSONAL VALUE? TRAFFIC: family connection MILLION DOLLAR BABY: emotional vulnerability STAR WARS: personal power DEFINITION OF THEME: DEFINITION OF THEME Theme is implied as a result of the inner emotional transformational journey that the point-of-view character takes, which is initiated by a Life-Challenging Decision toward an outer quest. The THEME is a resolution of the main character’s needs and yearnings as the result of some past experience, or ghost, that throws a value out of balance in his/her psyche -- the Theme goal. PLOT SPINE: PLOT SPINE LIFE-CHALLENGING DECISIONS SERIES OF ACTIONS AND OBSTACLES APOTHEOSIS ATONEMENT SELF-REALIZATION DEFINITION OF PLOT: DEFINITION OF PLOT A coordinated series of actions taken by the main character in the direction toward accomplishing an outer quest. The PLOT shows us what the main character will do to fulfill his needs -- the Plot goal. MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS “Pet the puppy” REDEEMING QUALITY DEFINITION OF REDEEMING QUALITY: DEFINITION OF REDEEMING QUALITY A soul quality manifested in a character’s action that has life-supporting, life-enhancing value. Hollywood has coined the phrase “pet the puppy scene” where a character does something positive early in the story that bonds the audience to him. This action of pure, positive energy shows the audience for whom to root, and gives it the impression that this character deserves to succeed in a quest. EXAMPLES OF REDEEMING QUALITY: EXAMPLES OF REDEEMING QUALITY ALADDIN: Steals his breakfast only to give it away to two street urchins. A FEW GOOD MEN: Dan shows intelligent humor when he plea bargains a case during batting practice. ROCKY: Rocky doesn’t break the guy’s thumbs; he walks the girl home who’s hanging out with hoods. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie pays for Willie’s wife’s car. STAR WARS: Luke takes pity on R2D2 & urges his uncle to purchase him along with C3PO. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will solves the theorem and tells no one. WIZARD OF OZ: Dorothy smothers Toto with love. DIE HARD: John carries a huge teddy bear through the airport. CASABLANCA: Rick’s kind to his employees. MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL WOUND: DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL WOUND Blow to one’s ego in formative years, like rejection, emotional abandonment, result of physical injury or abuse, psychic abuse, birth trauma, etc. MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND SHADOW/GHOST DEFINITION OF SHADOW/GHOST: DEFINITION OF SHADOW/GHOST From the Emotional Wound arises a shadowy specter of the psyche, which blocks the light of consciousness. It is an inner phantom that haunts and distorts one’s perception. MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND SHADOW/ GHOST EMOTIONAL ARMOR DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL ARMOR: DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL ARMOR Feeling the fear from the haunting specter of an Emotional Wound, one creates a persona that attempts to protect the being and ward off any further attacks on one’s vulnerability. Some build muscles; some grow fat; some develop skills (social, physical, intellectual, artistic); some accumulate knowledge. A belief system is constructed that manifests as mannerisms and attitudes presenting a mask that hides the ghost of the wound even from the being wearing the mask of emotional armor. EXAMPLES OF EMOTIONAL ARMOR: EXAMPLES OF EMOTIONAL ARMOR HAMLET: Hamlet’s scathing wit and probing analysis A FEW GOOD MEN: Danny plea bargains GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will slams people with brilliance and fists. THUNDERHEART: Ray’s FBI suit and tie and ultra-short hair CASABLANCA: Rick sticks his neck out for nobody. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie doesn’t train girls. Tough ain’t enough. Always protect yourself. ROCKY: Rocky maintains low expectations. STAR WARS: Luke goes along with the program. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: Red goes along with the program. DIE HARD: John needs to be in control. MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND SHADOW/ GHOST EMOTIONAL ARMOR CHARACTER FLAW/VALUE OUT OF BALANCE DEFINITION OF CHARACTER FLAW: DEFINITION OF CHARACTER FLAW A DEFECT OR SHORTCOMING OF SOME INTANGIBLE HUMAN VALUE THAT MANIFESTS AS A NEGATIVE TRAIT, OR THE SHADOW SIDE OF A POSITIVE VALUE. DEFINITION OF HUMAN VALUE: DEFINITION OF HUMAN VALUE A principle, standard, or quality considered worthwhile or desirable, such as faith, hope, charity, justice, prudence, fortitude, temperance, appreciation, humility, compassion, gratitude, honor, etc. Boy Scout code. DEFINITION OFVALUE OUT OF BALANCE: DEFINITION OF VALUE OUT OF BALANCE Some principle, standard, or human quality that has been compromised or neglected in the main character as a result of assuming the protective nature of emotional armor through beliefs, attitudes, and behavior that rule character choices. MOVIE EXAMPLES OFVALUE OUT OF BALANCE: MOVIE EXAMPLES OF VALUE OUT OF BALANCE A FEW GOOD MEN: compromised integrity (Integrity) THUNDERHEART: denial of ancestry (acceptance) ADAPTATION: self-loathing (self-confidence/self-love) STAR WARS: lack of personal power (personal power) GOOD WILL HUNTING: rage (self-forgiveness) OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN: distrust (trustworthy) SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: hopelessness (hope) THE AFRICAN QUEEN: self-serving (selfless service) MILLION DOLLAR BABY: fear of intimacy (vulnerability) WONDERFUL LIFE: feeling insignificant (feeling of value) DIE HARD: fear of loss of control (allowing) MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND SHADOW/ GHOST EMOTIONAL ARMOR CHARACTER FLAW/VALUE OUT OF BALANCE EMOTIONAL NEED DEFINITION OFEMOTIONAL NEED: DEFINITION OF EMOTIONAL NEED An unconscious longing, or emotional condition that requires relief. Some emotional imbalance that creates vague discomfort. The psychological state that creates rockets of desire in a character. EXAMPLES OF EMOTIONAL NEED: EXAMPLES OF EMOTIONAL NEED A FEW GOOD MEN: Dan needs to reconcile with father CASABLANCA: Rick needs completion OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN: Zack needs to belong STAR WARS: Luke needs sense of identity ROCKY: Rocky needs self-esteem SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: Red needs to feel hope MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie needs to nurture IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: George needs to feel valued DIE HARD: John needs to bond with his wife & kids GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will needs to feel self-love MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND SHADOW/ GHOST EMOTIONAL ARMOR CHARACTER FLAW/VALUE OUT OF BALANCE EMOTIONAL NEED CONSCIOUS DESIRE DEFINITION OFCONSCIOUS DESIRE: DEFINITION OF CONSCIOUS DESIRE Stimulated by an unconscious inner need, desire rises up as a conscious wish, request, longing, or petition for something to be, do, or have. - To covet or crave something or some state of being in the hope that it will fulfill this vague inner need. Desire arouses reason for the Decision To Act and gives purpose and direction to behavior. EXAMPLES OFCONSCIOUS DESIRE: EXAMPLES OF CONSCIOUS DESIRE A FEW GOOD MEN: Dan desires to be best at what he does. OFFICER AND A GENTLEMAN: Zack desires to impress others. STAR WARS: Luke desires to fight the Imperial Forces. ROCKY: Rocky desires to prove he’s no bum. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: Red desires to find something to believe in. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie desires to manage a fighter to a championship. WIZARD OF OZ: Dorothy desires to find a trouble-free place. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: George desires to do something great. DIE HARD: John desires to spend Christmas with his family. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will desires to prove to himself he’s superior to others. MC BACK-STORY LAYERS: MC BACK-STORY LAYERS REDEEMING QUALITY EMOTIONAL WOUND SHADOW/ GHOST EMOTIONAL ARMOR CHARACTER FLAW/VALUE OUT OF BALANCE EMOTIONAL NEED CONSCIOUS DESIRE LIFE-CHALLENGING DECISION LIFE-CHALLENGING DECISION: LIFE-CHALLENGING DECISION A Life-Challenging Decision is one where the main character steps beyond the safety of his/her Emotional Armor for some lofty goal. S/he acts according to his/her current beliefs, which dictate reactive behavior, but a Life-Challenging Decision assumes risk as a result of the established Emotional Armor. STAGES IN ACT ONE: STAGES IN ACT ONE ORDINARY WORLD Redeeming Quality Emotional Armor Character Flaw/Value out of balance CALL TO ADVENTURE/INCITING INCIDENT REFUSAL OF THE CALL NEW INFORMATION FIRST DECISION TO ACT/CROSSING THE THRESHOLD Stepping outside of Emotional Armor Start of Questing Journey CALL TO ADVENTURE(INCITING INCIDENT): CALL TO ADVENTURE (INCITING INCIDENT) The Call To Adventure offers the opportunity to the main character to pursue his conscious desire. EXAMPLES OF CALL TO ADVENTURE: EXAMPLES OF CALL TO ADVENTURE A FEW GOOD MEN: Kaffee receives the case assignment of defending Dawson and Downey. STAR WARS: Obi-Wan solicits Luke to battle the Empire. ROCKY: Apollo’s manager offers Rocky a shot at the title. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Maggie begs Frankie to train her. WIZARD OF OZ: Auntie Em tells Dorothy to find some place where she won’t get into trouble. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Pa Bailey urges George to follow in his footsteps at the Bailey bank. DIE HARD: Holly offers John her spare bedroom. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Lambeau rescues Will, tells him to see a therapist. REFUSAL OF THE CALL: REFUSAL OF THE CALL Refusal of the call shows the reactive behavior of the main character as a result of living out of his Emotional Armor, and sets up the intensity of the emotional risk when the character finally makes the Decision To Act that sends him on his quest. EXAMPLES OFREFUSAL OF THE CALL: EXAMPLES OF REFUSAL OF THE CALL A FEW GOOD MEN: Kaffee offers a plea bargain of 12 years with no investigation. STAR WARS: Luke feels obligated to stay on the farm. ROCKY: Rocky plays along with Apollo’s publicity, but doesn’t take the challenge seriously. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie says “I don’t train girls. Girlie, tough ain’t enough.” WIZARD OF OZ: Lets Professor Marvel talk her into returning home. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: George sets off for college. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will blows off five therapists. DIE HARD: John creates an argument because Holly changed her name. NEW INFORMATION(MENTOR BEAT): NEW INFORMATION (MENTOR BEAT) The New Information beat appeals to the Main Character’s redeeming quality and offers a new perspective on the Call To Adventure. EXAMPLES OFNEW INFORMATION: EXAMPLES OF NEW INFORMATION A FEW GOOD MEN: Danny discovers that the military is willing to bargain too easily. STAR WARS: Luke’s Aunt & Uncle are killed by the Imperial Forces. ROCKY: Mickey wants to manage Rocky because he has potential. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie’s main fighter leaves him and wins the championship belt; letter returned. WIZARD OF OZ: Tornado takes the house away and lands it in Oz. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: Pa Bailey has a fatal stroke and Potter’s primed to close down the Building & Loan. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Sean has a heart to heart with Will and pierces his intellect with some truth. DIE HARD: (potential) Talk with Chauffeur makes John realize that he’s denying his kids on Christmas. FIRST DECISION TO ACTCROSSING THE THRESHOLD: FIRST DECISION TO ACT CROSSING THE THRESHOLD A FEW GOOD MEN: Dan pleads clients not guilty. STAR WARS: Luke decides to go with Obiwan. ROCKY: Rocky accepts Mickey as Manager. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Frankie decides to train Maggie. WIZARD OF OZ: Dorothy steps through the door into Munchkin land. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: George assumes leadership of Building & Loan. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will shows up after Sean challenges him, and finally starts talking. DIE HARD: (missed beat) John decides he’ll risk apologizing to Holly so he can see his kids on Christmas; goes toward the door; hears gunfire. STEPS TOLIFE-CHALLENGING DECISIONS: STEPS TO LIFE-CHALLENGING DECISIONS Major obstacle to the quest Self-doubt and falling back on reactive behavior Intercession by the Conscience Character New Information Beat of silence contemplating the risk Taking the action of risk ACT TWO ELEMENTS: ACT TWO ELEMENTS SPECIAL WORLD – BELLY OF THE BEAST – TRANSFORMATIONAL ARENA ENEMIES AND ALLIES CONSCIENCE & TEMPTER BUILDING SKILLS NEEDED FOR QUEST TOTAL COMMITMENT TO QUEST APOTHEOSIS ATONEMENT NEW INFORMATION EXAMPLES OF SPECIAL WORLD: EXAMPLES OF SPECIAL WORLD A FEW GOOD MEN: Courtroom SHALL WE DANCE: Dance Studio ROCKY: Training MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Relationship WONDERFUL LIFE: Building & Loan CASABLANCA: Reconnecting w/ past GOOD WILL HUNTING: Sean’s office Wizard of Oz: Land of Oz ACT TWO L-C DECISIONS: ACT TWO L-C DECISIONS HAPPEN ABOUT EVERY 15 PAGES 45 - CREATING CHARACTER GROWTH (adjusting to the Special World) Adaptation 60 – TOTAL COMMITMENT TO QUEST (approach to the inmost cave) MillionDollarBaby 75 – LEADS TO CENTRAL CRISIS (ordeal; apotheosis; death of quest) MDB 90 – THRESHOLD INTO FINAL BATTLE (reward; atonement) A Few Good Men DECISIONS CREATE THE STORY SPINE DEFINITION OF APOTHEOSIS: DEFINITION OF APOTHEOSIS The Apotheosis beat is the seeming death of the quest. The Main Character sees no way to proceed. He has made every risky decision, taken every risky action and finds himself without options. The situation looks hopeless. DEFINITION OF ATONEMENT: DEFINITION OF ATONEMENT Atonement is a rite of passage that happens when the Main Character comes face to face with the beliefs that have run his life until now. Now is the time to see them as limitations that stop him from his present goal. He must embrace and transcend his shadow side and expand into a new belief paradigm before he can move forward. EXAMPLES OF ATONEMENT: EXAMPLES OF ATONEMENT A FEW GOOD MEN: Danny confronts his fear of being compared to his father. ADAPTATION: Charlie realizes that he can’t control what other people think of him. DIE HARD: John admits that he’s been a jerk with Holly. GOOD WILL HUNTING: Will realizes that it’s not his fault. CASABLANCA: Rick realizes that his personal feelings have little to do with the big picture. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: George sees the effect he’s had on the whole town of Bedford Falls. ACT THREE ELEMENTS: ACT THREE ELEMENTS FINAL BATTLE SELF-REALIZATION Awareness of Redeeming Quality Value in balance Theme revealed/implied NEW MORAL/LIFE ORDER New Ordinary World New rockets of desire EXAMPLES OF THEMATIC STATEMENT: EXAMPLES OF THEMATIC STATEMENT A FEW GOOD MEN: Integrity brings honor. SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION: Hope leads to freedom. THUNDERHEART: Acceptance allows integration. ADAPTATION: Self-confidence leads to success. STAR WARS: Personal power leads to trusting the force/intuition. MORE EXAMPLES: MORE EXAMPLES GOOD WILL HUNTING: Self-forgiveness leads to love. OFFICER & A GENT: Trustworthiness leads to sense of belonging. MILLION DOLLAR BABY: Vulnerability leads to letting go. WONDERFUL LIFE: Feeling of value leads to accepting one’s fate. DIE HARD: Allowing leads to self-awareness. Slide58: QUESTIONS?