MONDAY'S SCRIPT TIP:
WHOSE FILM IS IT ANYWAY?
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.
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.
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).
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
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
just to go home and be with their mothers. People see movies, so they told the story of
In RABBIT-PROOF FENCE we see the story from the girls' point of view -
Molly's point of view. It is her story. Though we see some scenes with the antagonist
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
scene isn't told from the policeman's point of view - it isn't about an officer of the law
ids from a bad situation for their own good, it's about three kids being snatched from
mother's arms and ordered to sit in the back of the police car and not say a word - the
of view. When the police car drives away, the girls see their home and their mothers
farher away through the back window of the police car. The story is about the girls, so
scene takes their side so that we can feel the emotions that they feel.
In FOREST GUMP we see the story from Forest's POV - we only
see the scenes
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
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
planning to capture Kimble.
POV IN SCENES
Point Of View also is important in individual scenes. In
ORIGINAL SIN (based on Cornell Woolrich's novel WALTZ INTO
Antonio Banderas plays a wealthy businessman wakes up one morning
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
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
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
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?
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E BOOKS PAGE
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.
E BOOKS: BLUE BOOKS & NOVELLETES
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