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Intro to Film: Screenwriting


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Discussion of the role of the screenwriter in the filmmaking process. Week 4 Lecture from Intro to Film at Lake Washington Institute of Technology.

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Intro to Film: Screenwriting

  1. 1. Week 4Story / Narrative / Screenwriting
  2. 2. The Role of the Screenwriter• The screenwriter produces a scriptfor a film• Screenplays are usually bought bythe production for a lump sum – thescreenwriter doesn’t receive anymoney on the back end• The screenplay contains dialoguebetween the characters as well asdescriptions of scenes and action• They set the mood for each of thescenes• Specific shots and cameramovements are usually not includedwithin a screenplay – it is thedirector’s job to give a visualinterpretation of the script
  3. 3. How is Screenwriting different thanother forms of writing?• Playwriting• Hard to draw specific attention to action and certainobjects on stage• Lots of dialogue because all internal thoughts andexposition (back story) have to be vocalized• Less flexibility when it comes to shifts in Time/Space• Novels• Typically has the most freedom to express the innerthoughts of characters• Less ability to be explicit with visual images (you must relyupon the ability of the reader to interpret the images)• Screenplays• Ability to point out specific actions that are happening• Ability to shift Time / Space easily• Most able to give audiences access to specific visual images(with less ambiguity in the interpretation of the images)
  4. 4. What’s the difference betweenStory and Plot?
  5. 5. Story vs. Plot• Story• The raw information about an event put into chronologicalsequence• “The boy went to the park. While he was at the park he went on theswing. Afterwards he went home”• Plot• A storyteller’s method of imposing a structure on top of thestory (what motivates the characters, etc.)• “The boy was afraid of the swing set at the park. He decided toovercome his fear by going one day. He went, rode the swing, anddecided that it wasn’t so bad. He went home feeling better abouthimself”• Plots make the story more interesting by placing them in astructure that is familiar to us
  6. 6. Characters and Conflict• Plots typically have two main characters: A protagonist and and antagonist• Protagonist– Traditionally the good guy, although they are not good all of the time– Defined as the most volitional character; The protagonists actions are those which move the plotforward– They have a goal or purpose in the story– We are able to empathize with them; movie watchers are often turned off when they don’t like themain character• Antagonist– Person or force who is working against the protagonist in reaching their goal• Who are the protagonists and antagonists in the following films?– The Lord of the Rings– Star Wars: Episode IV– Napoleon Dynamite• Conflict can come in many forms• Character vs. Character• Character vs. Society• Character vs. Nature• Character vs. Fate• Character vs. Self
  7. 7. Components of a ClassicalNarrative• Exposition• The back story for any plot• Contains information about the characters as well as the world in which the characters reside• Inciting Incident• An incident which forces the main character to leave the world that they currently reside in and embark on ajourney (physically or metaphorically) to resolve their conflict• Sometimes we are brought into the story after the inciting incident – this is referred to as “in Media Res”• An example of this can be shown in the television show “Lost” – we are brought to them on the island after the inciting incident,the plane crash, has already taken place. The exposition is what unfolds during the course of the story.• Rising Action• This is the meat of the story; A series of smaller conflicts which lead up to the main confrontation between theprotagonist and antagonist• A good way to think of this is by envisioning Super Mario Bros. Each level is a smaller conflict which ultimatelyprepares Mario to face the bigger conflict.• Climax• The final confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist• Falling Action• The action that takes place after the climax• Denouement• The resolution of the story; the protagonists resides in the new world created by their actions• It is possible to have multiple plots running at the same time• There is often a romantic sub-plot; it still has a narrative structure, but it is a different conflict than the mainconflict
  8. 8. Classical Narrative StructureExpositionInciting IncidentRising ActionClimaxDénouementFallingaction
  9. 9. The Hero’s Journey• Joseph Campbell, an anthropologists, was interested in how archetypes had changed the ways thatwe tell stories.• He derived what is known as the Hero’s Journey, which is an ancient structure with these steps (FromRussin and Downs, 2000)1. The Ordinary World – a myth begins with the hero in his own element2. The Call to Adventure – A problem or challenge is presented that will unsettle the ordinary world of the protagonist3. The Reluctant Hero – The hero balks at the edge of adventure. He faces his fears concerning the unknown4. The Wise Old Man – The hero acquires a mentor, who helps the hero make the right decision, but the here must undertakethe quest alone5. Into the Special World – The Hero makes the decision to undertake the adventure and leaves his own familiar world behind,to enter a special world of problems and challenges6. Test, Allies & Enemies – The hero confronts allies of his opponent, as well as his own weaknesses, and takes action whiledealing with the consequences of hi action7. The Inmost Cave – The hero enters the place of the greatest danger, the world of the antagonist8. The Supreme Ordeal – The dark moment occurs. The hero must face a crucial failure, an apparent defeat, out of which hewill achieve the wisdom or ability to succeed in the end9. Seizing the Sword – The hero gains power. With his new knowledge or greater capability, he can now defeat the hostileforces of the antagonist.10. The Road Back – The hero returns to ordinary world. There are still dangers and problems as the antagonist or his alliespursue the hero and try to prevent his escape11. Resurrection – The hero is spiritually or literally reborn and purified by his ordeal as he approaches the threshold of theordinary world12. Return with the Elixir – The hero returns to the ordinary world with the treasure that will heal his world and restore thebalance which was lost
  10. 10. Methods of StructuringLike directorial style, plots can be shaped in a realistic, classical, or formal style• Realistic• The hand of the storyteller is less visible• Elements which do not specifically help move the story along, are included for the sake of realism• Classical• Typically events play out in chronological order• Everyday actions which do not move the story forward are edited out “Doesn’t Jack Bauer have to go to thebathroom?”• Attempt for the story to play out as naturally as possible for the viewer (they don’t feel jarred)• Formalism• Time is often rearranged to suit the way that the writer/director wants to tell the story (ex. Annie Hall – Woody Allenjumps back and forth in time to bring forth specific themes)• Breaks in continuity and narrative can be jarring to the audienceAlternative Structures• Mosaic• Doesn’t follow one main character, but a bunch of characters dealing with similar issues (i.e. Magnolia); often thecharacters are brought together by some kind of event• Often have several portraits of a person’s life but without a structured narrative (32 Short Films About Glenn Gould)• Non-Linear Narratives – Still has a narrative structure but material isn’t presented chronologically• Memento• Pulp Fiction