Run From This Movie

You may think that film is omniscient - it takes a "God's eye view" - but when you look at the films that really work - the films that create an emotional connection with the audience, they have very limited Points Of View. They show the story from the protagonist's POV with a few asides to show the antagonist (but in relation to the protagonist's problem). They tend not to be scattershot... and they usually find the most dramatic character's POV to tell the story from - the person with the problem, not the person who knows the person with the problem.

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is to tell your story from the wrong POV. Choosing the wrong protagonist for your story. The film is being told from the protagonist's point of view, and the audience will "become them" for the next two hours... so you need to choose carefully. You want to find the POV for your story that is the most dramatic, the most interesting, and is easy for the audience to live vicariously through for a couple of hours. Paul Walker is on video shelves in FAST FIVE right now, but a few years ago starred in the disappointing RUNNING SCARED. You may never have heard of this film because it only sold about $9 million in tickets by the end of its run despite a fairly wide release. Opened at #9... and #8 was a British animated dog film called DOOGAL you have also never heard of. DOOGAL sold almost $27 million in tickets by the end of its run. A flop. It did not connect with the audience. The big problem with RUNNING SCARED was one of point of view. Here are four potential ways to tell this story, which one sounds the most dramatic to you?

A) A violent mob henchman (Paul Walker) loses the gun that ties his boss to the murder of a police officer and must find the gun before the police do.

B) An abused ten year old (Cameron Bright) steals a gun from a mob henchman and uses it to shoot his violent drug-addict stepfather.... but only wounds him. Now he is hunted through the city at night by both the mob and the police.

C) The son of a violent mob henchman (Alex Neuberger) is forced by his father to help find his best friend, who has stolen his dad's gun.

D) The wife of a violent mob henchman (Vera Farmiga) must hold her family together during the stolen gun incident.

Paul Walker in Running Scared

One of the problems with A is that it's difficult to identify with Paul Walker's character. He's not just violent at work, his violent at home. His family life is introduced in a scene where he screams at his son for playing with the Russian kid who lives next door (he's a bigot) and tries to screw his wife on the washing machine with his son in the next room. He's foul mouthed, angry, bigoted and violent... and he doesn't get better. Later, there's a scene where he slams his son against a bathroom wall in order to get him to cooperate! Oh, and instead of dumping the gun his boss uses to kill a cop, he decides to double cross them and hold onto it. This guy has even lower morals than the other mobsters he works with. Impossible to care about this guy - because he's searching for the gun to keep his mob boss from realizing that he's been double crossing them all along. His quest is for evil purposes. That makes it impossible to identify with him for two hours - and the Act 3 redemption scene comes about 90 minutes too late. You start the film actively disliking him... and then grow to absolutely hate him!

The most dramatic choice is B - the abused kid who is driven to the edge by his extremely violent stepfather, then steals the wrong gun to defend himself with. After shooting his stepfather (who lives and vows vengeance) he goes on the run in the inner city where he tries to find places to hide from both the mob and the police - who are searching for him. He discovers that anyone who offers to help a ten year old runaway is probably some form of predator. This is one frightening odyssey for an innocent little kid! It's very easy to identify with this kid, who gets deeper into trouble every time he does something to get out of trouble. When he's being hunted by everyone, when he's captured and must escape heavily armed adults, you're rooting for him. He is an innocent, and his quest is survival in a world that seems like it's out to get him... that's something we can identify with. The audience would have no trouble seeing the story through this character's eyes for 2 hours.

Cameron Bright in Running Scared

My guess is that writer-director Wayne Kramer (THE COOLER) started out with a script told from the abused ten year old's point of view (the film's closing titles show a kid on a fairy tale odyssey through the inner city) but I'll bet some moron in development probably told him "There are no 10 year old stars - do a rewrite where the violent henchman dad is the hero". They ended up with a script that they could cast a star like Paul Walker in the protagonist's role... but in the process turned the script into a messy film about a violent gangster searching for a stolen gun. They won the battle but lost the war.

A better idea would have been to have the abused kid as the protagonist, and have the violent mob henchman character that Paul Walker played be the *antagonist*. You still get the marquee value of Paul Walker (whatever that is) and you don't alienate the audience in the process. Would Paul Walker play the antagonist? I think he'd jump at the chance to change is pretty-boy image! That would make him look like he has range - and playing the bad guy can be good for your career. Look at Tom Cruise in Stuart Beattie's COLLATERAL.

The problem with making the violent mob henchman the protagonist is that we end up with a completely inconsistent character - for the first half of the movie he's completely despicable, then he's just mildly evil for a while, then we have this out-of-left-field redemption scene that is supposed to erase all of the bad things the character has done up to this point... but can't. He's still the guy who admits to beating his father almost to death with a baseball bat, the guy who kills a whole bunch of people as a mobster, the guy who gets violent with his own son! You can't take any of that back with a redemption scene. It's a paste-on "He's really a good guy underneath it all" scene that can't change all of the violent acts that he's done before. There's no way to start liking this guy so late in the game.

So choose the most interesting and dramatic protagonist for your script and tell the story from their point of view. Make sure that point of view is also one that the audience would like to share for the next two hours. You want the most interesting, compelling, and emotional story possible (for development to poop on).


Buy The DVD - Rabbit Proof

RABBIT-PROOF FENCE was nominated for some Oscars a couple of years ago, a film from Australia based on a true story. From the 30s to the 70s the government had a policy to "help" children of Aborigines with one white parent ("half castes") by introducing them into white society. The police would take these kids by force, put them in re-education camps where they would learn to be servants to white families. This is a sprawling story - a political story, a social story, a story about the creation of a servant class, a story about religious do-gooders who ended up doing a terrible thing, the story of forced assimilation, the story of a people without any power in their government... but with all of those stories to choose from, the filmmakers decided to tell the true story of three little girls who escaped the re-education camps in 1931 and walked 1,500 miles across dangerous terrain... just to go home and be with their mothers. People see movies, so they told the story of three individuals.

In RABBIT-PROOF FENCE we see the story from the girls' point of view - specifically from Molly's point of view. It is her story. Though we see some scenes with the antagonist (Kenneth Brannagh) and some scenes with the tracker chasing them (the always amazing David Gulpilil) and some scenes with their mothers back in Jingalob (Molly's goal - to get back home to her mother) - all of these directly relate to Molly. When the girls are first taken by the police, that scene isn't told from the policeman's point of view - it isn't about an officer of the law removing ids from a bad situation for their own good, it's about three kids being snatched from their mother's arms and ordered to sit in the back of the police car and not say a word - the girl's point of view. When the police car drives away, the girls see their home and their mothers becoming farher away through the back window of the police car. The story is about the girls, so each scene takes their side so that we can feel the emotions that they feel.

Buy The DVD - Fugitive

In FOREST GUMP we see the story from Forest's POV - we only see the scenes that he is involved in. We have no idea what Forest's mom is up to when Forest isn't around. She could be baking cookies or working in a strip club - we have no idea. What she does with her life when Forest isn't around isn't important to Forest's story unless her life creates an event that involves Forest. The story is about Forest, and almost every scene in the film features his character.

In THE FUGITIVE we see the story from Richard Kimble's perspective, with a handful of scenes that focus on Agent Gerard. There are no scenes involving members of Gerard's TEAM that don't include Gerard. There are no scenes involving Gerard that don't involve Richard Kimble - the closest we get to that is the capture of the OTHER prisoner who escape with Kimble... and that scene is really about Kimble! If they can capture the hard core criminal, how can a guy like Kimble get away? And Gerard is OBSESSED with finding out what the criminal may know about Kimble... The whole film is about Kimble! If Kimble isn't in a scene, the scene shows the antagonist planning to capture Kimble.


Buy The DVD - Fugitive

Point Of View also is important in individual scenes. In Michael Cristof's ORIGINAL SIN (based on Cornell Woolrich's novel WALTZ INTO DARKNESS) Antonio Banderas plays a wealthy businessman wakes up one morning to discover that his new wife Angelina Jolie has split... and cleaned out his bank account. Cut to: Jolie in another city on a date with a wealthy businessman. They return to her hotel room and start kissing. But someone is hidden in the closet spying on them. Jolie bids the businessman good night and begins undressing for bed... the stalker watching every move. When she begins brushing her hair, the stalker springs from the closet and grabs her! She struggles, but can't get away. We worry that the stalker will kill Jolie...

But then it's revealed that the stalker is Banderas.

By taking Jolie's POV, this scene turns our protagonist (Banderas) into the villain. It breaks our identification with him. In an earlier version of the same story, Truffaut's MISSISSIPPI MERMAID, the scene is played from the Banderas' character's point of view - He is searching his runaway wife's hotel room when she returns - so he hides in the closet - suspense is built around the possibility that she and her suitor will discover him. Seeing his wife make out with another man fills him with anger and heartache - we feel his pain. When the suitor leaves and he steps from the closet to confront his wife, we are right there with him. We completely understand his anger. The earlier version understood point of view - the new version does not.

Take care when you chose the point of view character for each of your scenes - make sure you give the point of view to the character you want the audience to identify with. Usually that's the protagonist. In RABBIT-PROOF FENCE we have three little girls on the run from the authorities - but the story is told from Molly (Everlyn Sampi)'s point of view rather than Daisy or Gracie's POV. By the end of the film - based on a true story - we see the real Molly as she appears today. This is her story.

Whose story is your script?
Which character provides the most dramatic point of view?
Who will the audience become for 2 hours?






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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Most screenplays are about a 50/50 split between dialogue and description - which means your description is just as important as your dialogue. It just gets less press because the audience never sees it, the same reason why screenwriters get less press than movie stars. But your story will never get to the audience until readers and development executives read your script... so it is a very important factor. Until the movie is made the screenplay is the movie and must be just as exciting as the movie. So how do you make your screenplay exciting to read? Description is important in a novel as well, and the “audience” does read it... how do we write riveting description?

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bluebook E BOOKS: New Blue Books and Novelettes!
I am expanding all of the Blue Books from around 44 pages of text to around 200 pages! Some are over 250 pages! See what is availabale and what is coming soon!Also, I've been writing Novelletes and there will soon be novels.

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