MONDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:

WHO'S DRIVING?


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What character drives your script? Your story will be about somebody who wants something... not just kinda would like it, but wants to the point of obsession. They are the driving force of your story - hey create the "through-line". A character wants something and will let nothing get in their way... but someone *does* get in their way, and that creates conflict. Story *is* conflict. The character that wants something should be driving your script, not some character who has no stake in the outcome. Who is that character? The strange part - it's probably not your protagonist.

Probably 90% of the time the antagonist drives the story - they bring the conflict. So in MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING there is no story until Julia Roberts gets the call that Cameron Diaz is stealing her ace-in-the-hole man. In JAWS there is no story until the shark starts eating people off the coast of Amity. In BLAZING SADDLES there is no story until Headly Lamar decides to assign a Black sheriff to that town so that everyone moves out and he can buy up the land to run his railroad through town. In THE FUGITIVE there's no story until the One Armed Man kills Kimble's wife. DELIVERANCE is just four guys on a rafting trip until those Hillbillies show up to rape them. TWELVE ANGRY MEN would be over in a minute if they all agreed with Henry Fonda's character... or were at least willing to hear him out... and there wouldn't have been 12 jurors if there wasn't a murder. Without those "Evil Exes" Scott Pilgrim and Romona would live happily ever after on page 15 and there would be no more story left to tell. It doesn't matter what the genre is - the antagonist brings the conflict, and there isn't a story until they show up. From that point on it's a game of tennis - the antagonist causes a problem, the protagonist reacts, the antagonist counter-reacts, and back and forth until someone gets married or explodes something.

JUMPER has a great basic concept - a guy who can teleport (Hayden Christensen - who can not act if his life depended on it) from one place to another. He just vanishes from here and ends up there. The movie also has lots of beautiful scenery and amazing locations and some cool special effects and cool teleportation ideas like anchors and a gizmo that keeps the wormhole open so that people can follow you, and lots of great ideas about teleoprtation - plus the great Samuel L. Jackson as the villain and...

The movie manages to squander all of that. It just kills all of those great ideas with a rookie mistake. No one is driving! This is a film without any driver... so it's going nowhere fast.

The Hero (Hayden)... just wants to be left alone. He's basically passive. He has this amazing teleportation gift, and he uses it to sight see and rob banks... leaving IOU notes behind. Nothing much happens in his life, and he has no real problems, no goals. Passive. Nothing is driving him...

The Villain (Jackson)... just wants to stop the hero from teleporting. No real reason why. And here's a major problem with the film - Jackson's reason for spending every waking moment trying to stop people from teleporting is that only God should have that power... which makes him kind of silly. He doesn't have an actual goal - nothing actually driving him - he just wants to stop Hayden from moving around so much. This also makes no sense, because Jackson actually uses the teleportation worm holes to chase Hayden... so if his goal is to stop people from doing this, he could start with himself. It's not a goal, it's just an excuse for a conflict. What is the "or else factor"? If Jackson doesn't stop Hayden from teleporting, what happens? Nothing! Things just go on as they have.

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The villain's plan is the most important element of any film, and Samuel L. Jackson's plan here is.... Oh, he doesn't have one. He just wants to stop our hero from teleporting. And for no good reason. The villain's plan is what drives most stories - so it needs to be something interesting and it needs to make complete sense. If something silly is driving the story, the story becomes silly. In Woody Allan's WHAT'S UP TIGER LILY the villain's plan was to steal a recipe for chicken salad sandwiches - and that makes the whole film silly, What drives your story needs to be something that makes sense - something that is world changing and/or life changing. In MY BEST FRIEND'S WEDDING it's not just some guy getting married, it's Julia Robert's ace-in-the-hole man, the one guy she *knows* will marry her. Without him? There is no other guy in her life. Okay, her Gay friend - but not a guy she can marry. She will die an old maid... and that is the "or else factor" for that film. The world won't change, but Julia Robert's *life* will be ruined unless she can stop this marriage. That's what gives her drive. The stakes are *high*. She is so driven in that film, she crosses over into villain territory... dragging us along with her. But Samuel L. Jackson doesn't want to do anything himself - he just wants to stop Hayden from doing something. Which means we have a passive villain. Nothing driving him either. And Hayden isn't teleporting for any reason - he doesn't have a plan either. No villain's plan, no hero goal. No one is driving! Which is why this film is such a car wreck.

Passive hero. Passive villain. Um, that means the conflict makes no sense! Because Hayden's "jumping" has no affect on the outside world at all - and no affect on Hayden's character - it's meaningless. It doesn't matter. So Jackson trying to stop him is not only silly, it also doesn't matter. Stop him from doing *what*? Moving around so much? So none of this matters to anyone - it's a fake conflict. How could such a basic story problem end up in a big budget Hollywood film? Okay, how could it end up in a low budget film? Okay, how could it end up *anywhere*? It's screenwriting 101 - storytelling 101... cavemen knew better than to have a story where both hero and villain were passive.

And that's the big problem with the movie - it's a bunch of contrived teleportation. Movement without meaning. Hey - he's in Egypt! Hey - he's in Rome! Hey - he's in his home town! But none of it means anything - he could have just sat around the house in New York and the same lack-of-plot could have happened. It's all kinds of movement, but nothing happens.

STALLED CHARACTERS

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The great Michael Rooker shows up in a subplot as his drunk and abusive father... but absolutely nothing is done with that! No scenes there! In the "prologue" Rooker gets to be drunk and abusive in one scene... but later he's just *there*. No interaction between father and son at all! They are on opposite sides of a door - and Hayden doesn't speak. They use that door as a conflict condom - instead of dealing with the relationship issues, they find a way to avoid that conflict entirely. Avoiding the relationship completely. Avoiding exploring the characters completely. Why? Again - a whole scene where no one is driving. Rooker really wants to communicate with his son - but they find a way to stop that communication so that the scene stalls out. It just sits there. A great actor on one side of the door, a wooden actor on the other... and *nothing happens*! They could have really done something with this! Rooker is a gifted actor - look at all of the different kinds of characters he has played - but they just waste him by using a closed door as a roadblock.

Rachel Bilson plays Hayden's high school sweetheart - a character created just to have someone in peril for no real reason later in the film. Since neither Hayden nor Jackson are doing anything - neither has a real goal and nothing is driving them - they put Bilson in some contrived trouble so that Hayden has something to do. But even here they screw it all up - after a completely boring, plotless and pointless story - they give us a ticking clock. Bilson is on a plane, and Hayden has eight hours to rescue her before the plane lands and Jackson captures her. I have no idea what Jackson will do with her - since he has no real plan and nothing is driving him, but hey, there might be some excitement in that scenario! A race against time means something is driving the scene. But, they just *forget* the ticking clock aspect, and then have Hayden show up late - so the clock didn't matter, then have Jackson *easily* capture her... so that we can have some sort of pointless and boring action ending. Hayden doesn't really want anything - nothing is driving him, and Jackson just wants Hayden to stop without any real reason - so nothing is really driving him either. This makes for a silly action ending, because no one really has a goal - so how can we really tell who wins? And what are they fighting about?

Diane Lane plays the hero's missing mother, and she pops up in a couple of scenes where she rescues him for no apparent reason (except he needs rescued and she's the picture in the photos of Mom)... Which makes her a Deus Ex Momchina! Right when actual conflict is about to strike, forcing Hayden into *doing something*, she shows up to instantly solve the problem and stop the conflict. Now he doesn't have to do anything! She removes the drive from the story. (Then we get a completely WTF twist ending with Lane that makes no sense - and actually makes the film so far make even less sense!)

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There's also another teleporter character played by Jamie Bell (that's a dude) who has no purpose in this film. Okay, I guess he's someone for Hayden to have pointless conversations with... but you can't help but wonder why this character wasn't like the Train Ghost (Vincent Schiavelli) in GHOST who teaches our hero how to use the gift. That would have given the character some reason to be in the film. Something that could have driven the scenes. In GHOST Schiavelli doesn't want to teach Swayze how to live as a ghost - and Swayze has to force him. That creates drive in the scenes they are in. Would have worked here, too. Instead, Bell's just someone to talk to and a Ratzo Rizo sidekick. A pointless character in a pointless film.

And that's another big issue with this film - no point, no theme, no character arc, no valuable lesson learned... nothing. The film is pointless. Hayden robs banks and leaves IOUs, but doesn't seem to be doing anything to make the money to pay them back. And doesn't regret robbing the banks. And doesn't care. And... well, there's nothing worse than a bland actor in a bland and pointless role!

The problem with watching a bad movie like JUMPER is that you can't help but compare it to better movies... even if those movies aren't very good. The Hayden - Jackson thing is kind of like HIGHLANDER - not a great movie by a long shot, but CITIZEN KANE compared to this piece of poop!

SCENE DRIVING

Hard Evidence, USA Network

In my cable thriller HARD EVIDENCE the protagonist is seldom in the driver's seat. Most of the time he's on the defensive while other people push him around. The antagonist or forces of antagonism are driving the story.

What is the character's need in the scene? The character driving the scene has to want something or the scene has no purpose. In HARD EVIDENCE Joan Severance wants to know about the woman she saw her husband kissing in one scene. She tries different methods of finding out this information within the scene: from hinting around, to tricking him, to outright confrontation. But the focus of the scene is her desire to find out about the woman and the extent of her relationship with her husband.

In SLITHER, another film featuring the great Michael Rooker, there is a scene where the Mayor of the town invaded by aliens just wants a Mr. Pibb soft drink... and is so driven to find one that he ends up exploding in rage that he can't find one. "Where is the Mr. Pibb? I told your secretary to pack Mr. Pibb. It's the only Coke I like. Goddamn Brenda exploding like a water balloon, worms driving my friends around like they're goddamn skin-cars, people are spitting acid at me, turning you into cottage cheese, and now there's no fucking goddamn Mr. Pibb?" Great scene! Know what is driving your character - what the conflict is in every scene. Usually the conflict that drives a scene is the same conflict that drives the whole story - a scene being a microcosm of the story. But some character will want something in every scene and be fighting to get it - that something might be information or a Mr. Pibb or the Lost Ark.

JUMPER ends with the set up for a sequel... that just isn't going to happen. And if it does - well, it's going to die some horrible death at the box office unless they can take this guy with super powers and give him something to do other than shopping and globe hopping. In a way, JUMPER ends up the international version of the Home Shopping Network... except the folks on that show are driven to sell you worthless stuff... Like this movie.

In every scene of your script someone must want something from another character - there must be a goal, a PURPOSE, to the characters in that scene. A scene without purpose is stalled on the side of the road. No one is driving it... it is powerless.

Give your script power - put someone in the driver's seat!


BRAND NEW

All About LOGLINES, TREATMENTS, and PITCHING!

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Distilling Your Screenplay!

Loglines, Treatments, Pitching, Look Books, Pitch Decks, One Pagers, Rip-O-Matics?

You have written a brilliant 110 page screenplay, but how do you get anyone to read it? You need to distill it down into some form of verbal moonshine or story rocket fuel that will ignite that bored development executive or manager or agent and get them to request your screenplay. But how do you shrink those 110 pages into a 25 word logline or a 2 minute elevator pitch or a one page synopsis or a short paragraph? This 100,000 word book shows you how! Everything you need to know! From common logline mistakes (and how to solve them) to how your pitch can reveal story problems to the 4 types of pitches!

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If you are making your own movie, budget, is even more important - and you need to think about budget *before* you write your screenplay... or you will end up with a script that you can’t afford to make (or is a struggle to make). Everyone is making their own films these days, and even if you have done it before there are lots of great techniques in this book to get more money on screen - for less money! You can make a film that looks like it cost millions for pocket change.

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OUTLINES & THE THEMATIC!

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ARE YOUR SCENES IN THE RIGHT ORDER?
AND ARE THEY THE RIGHT SCENES?

Your story is like a road trip... but where are you going? What's the best route to get there? What are the best sights to see along the way? Just as you plan a vacation instead of just jump in the car and start driving, it's a good idea to plan your story. An artist does sketches before breaking out the oils, so why shouldn't a writer do the same? This Blue Book looks at various outlining methods used by professional screenwriters like Wesley Strick, Paul Schrader, John August, and others... as well as a guest chapter on novel outlines. Plus a whole section on the Thematic Method of generating scenes and characters and other elements that will be part of your outline. The three stages of writing are: Pre-writing, Writing, and Rewriting... this book looks at that first stage and how to use it to improve your screenplays and novels.

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READY TO BREAK IN?

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***

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Expanded version with more ways to find great ideas! Your screenplay is going to begin with an idea. There are good ideas and bad ideas and commercial ideas and personal ideas. But where do you find ideas in the first place? This handbook explores different methods for finding or generating ideas, and combining those ideas into concepts that sell. The Idea Bank, Fifteen Places To Find Ideas, Good Ideas And Bad Ideas, Ideas From Locations And Elements, Keeping Track Of Your Ideas, Idea Theft - What Can You Do? Weird Ways To Connect Ideas, Combing Ideas To Create Concepts, High Concepts - What Are They? Creating The Killer Concept, Substitution - Lion Tamers & Hitmen, Creating Blockbuster Concepts, Magnification And The Matrix, Conflict Within Concept, Concepts With Visual Conflict, Avoiding Episodic Concepts, much more! Print version is 48 pages, Kindle version is over 175 pages!

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BOOKLETS & PRODUCTS

bluebook FIRST STRIKE BLUE BOOKS
Each Blue Book is 48 pages and focuses on a different aspect of screenwriting. Dialogue. Visual Storytelling. Your First Ten Pages. Act 2 Booster. Protagonists. Great Endings.
Seventeen Blue Books now available!

THE SECRETS OF ACTION SCREENWRITING The Best Nuts & Bolts Screenwriting Book On The Market!

BILL'S CORNER

My nineteen produced films, interviews with me in magazines, several sample scripts, my available scripts list... And MORE!
...............................BILL'S CORNER


Available Scripts

CLASSES ON MP3

Class  MP3s CLASSES ON MP3! Take a class on MP3! GUERRILLA MARKETING - NO AGENT? NO PROBLEM! and WRITING THRILLERS (2 MP3s). Full length classes on MP3. Now Available: IDEAS & CREATIVITY, WRITING HORROR, WRITING INDIE FILMS, more!
Take classes on MP3!