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Old 11-15-2015, 04:51 PM   #151
Yaso
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by TheConnorNoden View Post
I wouldn't. It's a pretty plotless film that doesn't really require a beat by beat breakdown. On paper it shouldn't work but it's a masterpiece all the same. Try and take something from that.
That seems kind of lazy to me.

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To pick a huge commercial and critical success, Forrest Gump:
If my memory serves me well: Forrest wants to marry Jenny. She's his antagonist and his need/weakness. It remains unfulfilled in the end, which makes the story bittersweet. Since it's written like a biography, Forrest is trying to find meaning in his life's story. The episodic nature of the story gives it several other antagonists. I probably should do more story breakdowns.

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Excellent example to demonstrate the extreme foolishness of believing that a screenplay can be assembled like IKEA furniture with a DIY-screenplay kit.
Yes, the process is quite the opposite of mechanical. You have to apply analytical aswell as creative techniques.

If you are too analytical, you'll never create much content and you'll end up with something mechanical. On the other hand, if you are too creative, you will end up with a structureless mess.

Last edited by Yaso : 11-15-2015 at 05:02 PM.
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Old 11-15-2015, 05:17 PM   #152
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
To pick a huge commercial and critical success, Forrest Gump:

BEGINNING (NEED/WEAKNESS): Forrest doesn't have a need - he begins the film with the same attitude he ends it with. You could say his reduced intelligence is a weakness, but not in the classic sense, because he constantly excels despite it and it never changes.
GOAL: No overarching goal. Sure, there are things he wants along the way, but none that define the movie.
ANTAGONIST: Nope. Again, there are different people/events who are against him, but none in the classical sense.
STRATEGY: Nope.
FINALE: Nope. I guess you could say maybe it's finding out he has a son? Maybe? Only because it's near the end. He never wanted a son or worked towards a son, it just happened. Like everything else.
EPIPHANY: Nope.
ENDING: The film does end.

It's basically a picaresque story, but instead of the usual anti-hero, there's a naif. There are plenty of great picaresque stories, and one of the things that defines them is that there's no plot or character development.

Aside from the fact that it begins and ends, it has none of the elements listed. Best picture, best adapted screenplay.
Fascinating, Jeff. Curious if you consider FG a tragedy? That is, although the dim-witted Forest experiences some extraordinary moments, he fails to obtain the goal his dying mother set for him - discovering his destiny. For most of us, destiny is an abstraction, rather than a real force. But in Forest's mind, destiny was real, something that could be found. Perhaps that's why we cried as much as laughed throughout his journey.
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Old 11-15-2015, 05:49 PM   #153
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by Yaso View Post
If my memory serves me well: Forrest wants to marry Jenny. She's his antagonist and his need/weakness. It remains unfulfilled in the end, which makes the story bittersweet. Since it's written like a biography, Forrest is trying to find meaning in his life's story. The episodic nature of the story gives it several other antagonists. I probably should do more story breakdowns.
So Jenny is the need/weakness, the goal and the antagonist? Or the goal is trying to find meaning?

I guess you can make a case for almost anything, but I'd be hard pressed to break the story down that way. Jenny's his best friend as a child, he loves her, but he certainly doesn't seem to pursue her. He stumbles across her a few times, and when she shows up briefly and gets pregnant, it's not because of anything Forrest does: she just walks up on the porch and moves in.

I'd say she's a narrative device that helps tie the disparate stories together.

My bottom line is: I think starting out with even the most seemingly universal and reduced story structure, like yours, there's no way someone could create Forrest Gump. If you had the basic idea for it and tried to fit it to those few points, you'd end up with a drastically different movie.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bioprofessor
Fascinating, Jeff. Curious if you consider FG a tragedy? That is, although the dim-witted Forest experiences some extraordinary moments, he fails to obtain the goal his dying mother set for him - discovering his destiny. For most of us, destiny is an abstraction, rather than a real force. But in Forest's mind, destiny was real, something that could be found. Perhaps that's why we cried as much as laughed throughout his journey.
I'm still going with picaresque - it really is a loosely tied together series of events. Certainly there's a theme of destiny that's woven through it - Lieutenant Dan believes very strongly that he has a destiny, and that Forrest robbed him of his, and as you point out, his mother had a point of view on it as well.

ETA: Just pulled up the script. Here's the ending:

Quote:
I don't know if Momma was
right or if, if it's Lieutenant Dan.
I don't know if we each have a
destiny, or if we're all just floating
around accidental-like on a breeze,
but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe
both is happening at the same time.
That's why I'd go with destiny as a theme and not a goal. It's an open question, even to him, even after everything that happens.

Again, there's just no way you wouldn't fuck up Forrest Gump if you tried to apply any template to it before you wrote it.
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Old 11-15-2015, 08:16 PM   #154
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

Quote:
I don't know if Momma was
right or if, if it's Lieutenant Dan.
I don't know if we each have a
destiny, or if we're all just floating
around accidental-like on a breeze,
but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe
both is happening at the same time.
Quote:
That's why I'd go with destiny as a theme and not a goal. It's an open question, even to him, even after everything that happens.
Indeed! I wonder if the writer had chills running down his spine after writing that.
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:10 PM   #155
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

Forrest Gump is a Messiah story. Forrest Gump doesn't change but the people around him do: Lt. Dan, Bubba, Jenny. In this structure the main character actually goes through no changes.
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Old 11-15-2015, 09:41 PM   #156
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

Messiah stories are the classic Joseph Campbell form, which I don't think Forrest Gump follows at all.

Matrix, Star Wars & Harry Potter fits the Messianic shape - heroic figure struggling against the forces of evil, makes a huge sacrifice to save his followers/friends, is reborn and leads his people to triumph... I don't see it with Forrest.
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Old 11-15-2015, 11:22 PM   #157
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
Again, there's just no way you wouldn't fuck up Forrest Gump if you tried to apply any template to it before you wrote it.
This is why templates are hot to begin with. Most people (me included) know they can never pen a story as good as Forrest Gump because they don't understand how it works or even what it is. Heck, the original author may not. He wanted John Goodman to play Forrest FFS.

So an amateur has no choice but to use a template. It's the "most probable" way to construct a good script. If you're already a pro, and asked to write a Star Trek in 6 months, the template is mandatory. You don't have time to invent some revolutionary "Gump story" no one has ever seen before. Which is why the last two ST films are so formulaic.
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Old 11-15-2015, 11:28 PM   #158
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

I'm a pro.

I have dozens of friends that are pros.

We're asked to write screenplays all the time in much less time than six months.

I've never used a template.

I've never heard of one of my friends doing it. I'm not saying there aren't pros that do, but I strongly believe they're in the minority.

I've done more than a hundred drafts for studios. I've never once had a conversation using all the terms that are thrown around in this thread. We'll talk about acts, and that's about it.

I just don't think it's the path to success. Honestly.
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:27 AM   #159
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by JeffLowell View Post
I'm a pro.

I have dozens of friends that are pros.

We're asked to write screenplays all the time in much less time than six months.

I've never used a template.

I've never heard of one of my friends doing it. I'm not saying there aren't pros that do, but I strongly believe they're in the minority.

I've done more than a hundred drafts for studios. I've never once had a conversation using all the terms that are thrown around in this thread. We'll talk about acts, and that's about it.

I just don't think it's the path to success. Honestly.
I'm not close to the hundred draft point like Jeff, but I've done a couple of dozen and this is absolutely my experience, too. Not once have I heard any of this template or formula crap from a producer or a development exec or a director. Not once. There are discussions about acts sometimes, as Jeff said, but never this stuff. It's Story. Story. Story. And not formula story.

Every story cannot be shoved into one (or any) convenient formula no matter how much you want it to be that way or twist it into a pretzel to try and prove it. Creativity isn't about what goes where and why or coloring inside the lines. It's about the freedom to tell a great story your way without self-imposed emcombrances. Not easy. Not done overnight. Not done without a lot of hard work. But when you loosen the chains of the rules that in reality mean nothing and succeed in creating a great story your own way, that's what gets you noticed. Not cookie cutter, by the 15 dollar screenwriting book, scripts.
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Old 11-16-2015, 12:42 AM   #160
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

"BEGINNING (NEED/WEAKNESS)
GOAL
ANTAGONIST
STRATEGY
FINALE
EPIPHANY
ENDING"

Most of this is completely obvious and trite and therefore useless. The parts that are true are just a tautology: "A story has to have a story to be a story."

A "BEGINNING" and an "ENDING"? Really? Didn't they forget "MIDDLE"?

More or less something has got to happen or it's not a story. I knew that when I was two and my dad first starting reading me fairy tales.

Except some of this isn't always true. Every story has an "EPIPHANY"? I don't think so. Not according to Webster anyway.
Quote:
3
a (1) : a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something (2) : an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking (3) : an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure
b : a revealing scene or moment
Unless I've been sleeping through a hell of a lot of epiphanies, I definitely don't see them in every movie.

Everybody is different, so if this works for you, work it. It doesn't work for me.

I've seen these "Character Sheets" that you're supposed to use to "develop" your characters (even minor characters). For me those are a complete, stifling pile of crap. If I seriously tried to fill those out I'd never write anything creative.

Some people swear by them. Whatever floats your boat. To each his own. Do your thing and I'll do mine.

If filling out hundreds of pages of preliminary material and outlines results in a quality script for you -- congratulations.

If winging it and writing on the fly results in a quality script for you -- congratulations.

If doing something in between these two extremes results in a quality script for you -- congratulations.

Now let's just write something.
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