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Old 11-19-2015, 08:44 AM   #301
sc111
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by bioprofessor View Post
Approaching an issue from the polar ends always makes for good drama - hence the length of this thread (would we writers have it any other way?).

It appears, however that even Larsen understood that there was a degree of conventional structure ("archetypal content") within the seemingly chaotic messages of dreams...

An excerpt from the introduction of The Mythic Imagination:

"This book is a guide for bringing the deeper mythic structures of experience into awareness, for learning to recognize the archetypal content embedded in our dreams and daydreams, feelings, beliefs, relationships, conscious creations, and behavior."



Agreed. However, after reading the book I can say it's certainly not written in a how-to format or this is what the xyz symbol in your dream means.

Not at all. It guides the reader to awareness of archetypal content much like reading produced screenplays helps a writer gain awareness of character development, theme, structure, et al.

It's important to point out Larsen takes Campbell's work on comparative mythology deeper into the realm of psychology. Yet neither Larsen or Campbell ever intended their books as instructional for fiction writers.

Yes, they both use examples of art and writing to identify how universal and personal myths rose to the consciousness of the creators of those works.

But neither said, nor implied, Hey writers -- you can reverse engineer these myths to write fiction.

And, since the STC template heavily echos Campbell's Hero's Journey, it's entirely possible that's where Snyder went wrong.

He deconstructed Campbell's Hero's Journey to create his template yet totally missed WHY these mythic components can be found in various scripts. As a result, he completely missed the boat on HOW Campbell's work can be of value to a writer.

The work of Larsen and Campbell helps us understand that our impulse to write this story and not that story rises from personal and universal myths embedded in the writer's own consciousness. And when the writer becomes aware of this they can dig deeper to write a more compelling story only they can tell. But their work in no way dictates that every script should follow the The Hero's Journey identified by Campbell. Quite the opposite.

They both essentially advise: Look to discover the myths that exist within you. The myths that drive your choices, your thoughts, your life. For the writer who can do this it opens conscious passageways to discover personal myths that can result in more compelling stories; stories that will more deeply resonate with their target market.

For example, we all know Hollywood keeps making big budget Super Hero movies because the huge Chinese market loves them. Is it any wonder why they love them? They live in a repressive society in the grip of state rule that limits their freedoms and access to information. The Super Hero owns his/her super powers and can do anything he/she wants to do. The Super Hero answers to no one.

Seems to me the Chinese like these films because they resonate with their own unexpressed, unexplored, unconscious myths centered around freedom, no? The question is, can writers of Super Hero scripts use this knowledge to write more compelling stories for their market? I say yes.
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Old 11-19-2015, 08:53 AM   #302
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by StoryWriter View Post
"flawed in its design"?

Explain that? The claim is (apparently -- the lines have been getting blurred) that pro screenwriters use templates. How is asking pros, directly if they do, somehow, "flawed in its design"?

And unless you're inferring that Jeff Lowell is a liar, he's already answered your flawed assumptions about how and to whom he asked this question.

Even if you could prove (which you can't) that all pro screenwriters, as beginners, used the crutch of templates, it's an insult to claim that they have to keep on using that crutch after they mastered their craft. That would be like claiming all professional bicycle racers still have to use training wheels.

"Diligent"? Nah, this really is petty.
I already explained how the way the question was asked was flawed. In detail, if I recall.

It's an insult to assume that most screenwriters rely on a basic structure when they approach a movie? Really? Snyder's template includes the following among its beats:

-Set-Up
-Catalyst
-Debate
-Break into Two
-B Story
-Midpoint
-All is Lost
-Break into Three
-Finale

You say that using these beats, the most rudimentary aspects of a screenplay -- plus a handful of others -- represents some sort of "crutch"? Or some kind of "training wheels?" You may think I'm being petty, but you're most certainly being hyperbolic.

Just because you can find examples of screenplays that sold or movies that were made that don't include these elements, doesn't mean that most movies don't include these elements. For the most part, studios aren't paying tens of thousands to millions of dollars for something that throws out act breaks or a midpoint or that differs greatly from the way most movies are made.
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Old 11-19-2015, 09:26 AM   #303
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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sc111 thanks for sharing that. Some great lessons to learn there, especially the part of sending too soon. Who hasn't made that mistake? If I could just go back in time.
Yeah, I often wonder what would've happened if I sent Brooklyn Weaver a revised version of that script.

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@sc111

When I first read "Save The Cat", I thought: "There's really something to this!" Watched a couple of movies -- one seemed to fit, exactly, but the other didn't work as well until I shoehorned some stuff in. "OK, yeah, now I see it." I even tried to modify a couple of scripts I wrote but that did more harm than good. ....
Exactly. I caught cat-scratch fever when writing my fourth (unfinished) script. And when I compare it to the first three written when I was blissfully ignorant of the template, it's almost scary to see how much ground I had lost in terms of quality.

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Thanks for the story. Enjoyed it. Sounds familiar. I have a very scaled down, lazier, less talented version of the same story. I've sold a few short stories to tiny publications -- even edited a couple of these myself. Later I was writing snippets and shorts and posting them on a screenwriting newsgroup -- was told I had "chops" by real, working, screenwriters/novelists and (of course) that went to my head. Then I thought, I should take this stuff seriously -- so I got hold of "guru" crap and studied it, and my writing took an instant nosedive. I never really recovered -- did I mention I was lazy? Besides, at about the point I started listening to real writers instead of "gurus," I got to read a script that hadn't yet been bought or produced yet. I knew instantly this thing was light years above of my writing level. Which was humbling and -- quite bluntly -- discouraging as hell. And, being lazy (and not nearly as talented as I originally thought) I pretty much gave up any real hope of selling anything. But I still like writing shorts and snippets and probably will until I'm gone. Writing is fun. Trying to make it "in the business" is work.
Yup, when I read something by Gilroy it's real tempting to throw up my hands in resignation. But then I remind myself Gilroy writes amazing stuff from his point of view, inspired by themes he wants to explore. But he can't write stories from my point of view, inspired by themes meaningful to me. When you think about that it's liberating.
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Last edited by sc111 : 11-19-2015 at 10:02 AM.
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Old 11-19-2015, 10:30 AM   #304
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by sc111 View Post
Agreed. However, after reading the book I can say it's certainly not written in a how-to format or this is what the xyz symbol in your dream means.

Not at all. It guides the reader to awareness of archetypal content much like reading produced screenplays helps a writer gain awareness of character development, theme, structure, et al.

It's important to point out Larsen takes Campbell's work on comparative mythology deeper into the realm of psychology. Yet neither Larsen or Campbell ever intended their books as instructional for fiction writers.

Yes, they both use examples of art and writing to identify how universal and personal myths rose to the consciousness of the creators of those works.

But neither said, nor implied, Hey writers -- you can reverse engineer these myths to write fiction.

And, since the STC template heavily echos Campbell's Hero's Journey, it's entirely possible that's where Snyder went wrong.

He deconstructed Campbell's Hero's Journey to create his template yet totally missed WHY these mythic components can be found in various scripts. As a result, he completely missed the boat on HOW Campbell's work can be of value to a writer.
And with that, I think we are in complete agreement. In baseball, a good hitting coach will provide players with key elements to improve their reaction time, weight transfer, hand speed, etc. However, all that good can be negated by a coach who forces a player to adhere to a rigid stance, where his hands, head, feet, etc. are held in a specific position.

Perhaps, the answer is akin to saying, "Hey, you might want to try A, B or C." vs. "You must do A, B, C... in exactly that order."
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Old 11-19-2015, 10:56 AM   #305
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by bioprofessor View Post
And with that, I think we are in complete agreement. In baseball, a good hitting coach will provide players with key elements to improve their reaction time, weight transfer, hand speed, etc. However, all that good can be negated by a coach who forces a player to adhere to a rigid stance, where his hands, head, feet, etc. are held in a specific position.

Perhaps, the answer is akin to saying, "Hey, you might want to try A, B or C." vs. "You must do A, B, C... in exactly that order."
Yes. Another point I wanted to make -- Snyder boiled down The Hero's Journey then turned around and claimed it was a template for all movies. But the Hero's Journey is only one type of myth. There are others.

Deleted link because, though I think the article has merit, the guy who wrote could be seen as just another guru. So, nevermind.
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Old 11-19-2015, 12:06 PM   #306
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

Per this discussion and for those interested, check out this short chapter Howard Suber wrote on Aristolatry, in his book "The Power of Film":

https://books.google.com/books?id=yM...olatry&f=false
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Old 11-19-2015, 03:36 PM   #307
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Originally Posted by UpandComing View Post
It's an insult to assume that most screenwriters rely on a basic structure when they approach a movie? Really? Snyder's template includes the following among its beats:

-Set-Up
-Catalyst
-Debate
-Break into Two
-B Story
-Midpoint
-All is Lost
-Break into Three
-Finale

You say that using these beats, the most rudimentary aspects of a screenplay -- plus a handful of others -- represents some sort of "crutch"?
Yes, but as you niftily try to skate by, that isn't the prescription for success that Save The Cat lays out. Those are the least objectionable 8 of the 15 steps that you have to hit, minus the page numbers and idiotic details.

This is the real list that you're supposed to fill out before you write your screenplay:

1. Opening Image (1)
2. Theme Stated (5)
3. Set-Up Section (1-10)
4. Catalyst (12)
5. Debate Section (12-25)
6. Break into Two (25)
7. B Story (30)
8. Fun and Games Section (30-55)
9. Midpoint (55)
10. Bad Guys Close In Section (55-75)
11. All Is Lost (75)
12. Dark Night of the Soul (somewhere between 75 and 85)
13. Break into Three (85)
14. Finale Section (85-110)
15. Final Image (110)

I've omitted the long descriptions of exactly what those beats need to consist of, like this one from "break into three":

Quote:
Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again.
So on page 85, make sure someone from the b-story hands the protagonist a fresh idea. The protagonist can't come up with it himself, it can't be from someone from the a-story, it can't come from an encounter with a stranger - it has to come from someone in the b-story, preferably the love interest.

If your screenplay isn't exactly 110 pages (and why isn't it?!), there are handy on-line calculators available so you can figure out where exactly your "Bad Guys Close In Section" happens.

Now, children, fill out your worksheet nicely, and try to impress Hollywood with your originality.
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Old 11-19-2015, 05:39 PM   #308
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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Yes, but as you niftily try to skate by, that isn't the prescription for success that Save The Cat lays out. Those are the least objectionable 8 of the 15 steps that you have to hit, minus the page numbers and idiotic details.
First of all, I'm glad you're back. Some people thought an intense debate with intense disagreement would drive you away from commenting on these forums, which I thought was ridiculous. You're tougher than that.

Now, my response. The list you refer to as "least objectionable" actually has 9 steps. The remaining 6 ones are as follows, with my thoughts:

----------------------------------------------------------------

Opening Image -- At its most basic, this means an opening shot that conveys the tone of the film. Don't think it's absolutely necessary, but I can see how it can help an audience get a sense of what the genre of the movie is.

Theme Stated --
Sure, we can throw this one out.

Fun and Games Section -- At its most basic, this is just fulfilling the "promise of the premise" in the first half of Act Two. It pretty much covers all of the first half of the act, so it's not specific. If you came to see a movie about a profane teddy bear, you want to see the teddy bear engaging in all of his hijinks, from drinking to getting high to getting laid. Don't see anything controversial about that.

Bad Guys Close In Section -- This is very closely tied to "All is Lost". At its most basic, it's just saying that after the Midpoint, when things seem to turn in a definite direction for the protag, there are signs that there are new things beginning to return him to his past state of disunity. This naturally leads into "All is Lost", where all those things pile up. Again, nothing controversial.

Dark Night of the Soul -- At its most basic, this is just the protag seeming out of all options before entering Act 3. To me, this just serves to create an emotional impact late in the movie. It's the point at which the audience thinks the protag won't succeed -- which makes it that much more fulfilling when he rebounds and ultimately prevails in the final act (and, considering that most movies have happy endings, it makes sense).

Final Image -- At its most basic, something meant to show how the protag or his life situation has changed from the beginning. Like the Opening Image, I don't think this is absolutely necessary; however, it can create a sense of closure as you're about to leave theater.

---------------------------------------------------------------------

Now for some thoughts:

*The Beats -- Like I said, at least 9 out of the 15 beats are considered pretty standard, the most rudimentary elements of a dramatic story, which tends to have lots of turns. Which is why they're so similar to Field's model and the Hero's Journey. But as I've indicated above, I honestly don't consider the remaining beats that controversial. That is, at their most basic. Which leads me to my next point...

*The Beats' Details -- I'll agree with you that Snyder's instructions for each beat are detailed to an obsessive degree. And thus restrictive. But guess what? I don't follow the minutiae of these details! And I don't think anyone else needs to, either. They're just the words of an author eager to shove as many of his observations into his template as possible. But despite his prescriptive tone, you know what he says at the end of the book's introduction? I have it in front of me now.

He says: "They're the rules I hope you will learn and use and even break." Which tells you that, even though he thinks of them as "rules", he himself acknowledges to some extent that movies are moldable entities that require some flexibility. I'm not kidding. Look it up.

*The Beats' Page Numbers --- I'll agree that these are restrictive as well. It is indeed ridiculous to try and fit your plot points to meet certain assigned page numbers when that might not be the most organic approach for your story. I don't think it's required for anyone. And -- despite the efforts of many to distort my words for the benefits of their argument -- providing fuel for a big ole' pile of righteous indignation -- I said nothing to that effect in my initial post.

Having said that -- I've found that keeping certain plot points in the general proportion proposed by this template often helps to sustain a good pace for the story. Regardless of how many pages the script is. Whether it's 90 pages or 120 pages:

It's not that radical to have the Catalyst occur at a point that doesn't have people begin to start looking at their watches, wondering when the premise of the movie will kick into effect. It's not that radical to have the midpoint of the story occur somewhere around the middle of the script. It's not that radical to have the act breaks occur around a third and two-thirds of the way into the movie, given that there are three acts. It's not that radical to say that having something really big happening somewhere in the course of each 30 minute period (a long stretch for anyone) can help to keep the picture humming along.

That's why I'd like to go back to what I said at the end of my very first post. It was this:

Quote:
Originally Posted by UpandComing View Post
Note: these aren't hard-and-fast rules I follow, just general guidelines that help keep me alert.
This summarizes the way I think about STC. Yes, it is a tool that was written with rigid page number assignments and rigid descriptions detailing how each beat should play out. A tool discussed by the author in a tone that suggests following it to the T is necessary and that he is a screenwriting God.

But despite the way it was designed -- and the problematic tone the author employs -- I don't use it this way. I see it as a malleable tool. I pay attention to the high-level insight it provides. I've found that at a high-level, it provides a useful structure for telling a story.

Many people don't use it this way. They obsess over not hitting certain page numbers. Or not achieving all the beat details.

But -- guess what? As I've said a number of times before -- and as has been reflected in comments by Bitter Script Reader and Mazin that figment cited -- just because many people use a tool a bad way, doesn't automatically make it a bad tool. But since I've said this so many times before -- maybe I'll employ an analogy this time.

Space heaters are great. If you live in a sh***y apartment with no central heating or heat that's out of your control, they can help to keep you warm during the winter. They give you some control.

But guess what? Space heaters can be dangerous. In fact, they're the top cause of winter fire heating deaths, responsible for 80% of all incidents:
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/n...eaths/5414447/

These fires don't just occur in a vacuum. They occur because people place the heaters near combustible materials. In other words -- they don't use them properly.

Does this mean that people should stop using space heaters? Or that the government should ban them? No. It just means that people need to learn how to use them responsibly.

And that, again, in a nutshell, summarizes how I think about STC. It's a tool that provides some useful, high-level guidance on structure and pacing. But -- used the wrong way -- it can lead to less-than-desirable results. That doesn't mean that the tool itself is inherently destructive. It doesn't mean that people should avoid reading it at all costs. (Which frankly suggests that the book is some kind of mind-controlling device that hypnotizes readers as soon as they open it. And hints at a troublesome censorship mentality).

It simply means that when people use it -- they need to be sure that they're using it responsibly. That's all. (Come to think of it, alcohol would've probably made for another good analogy).

Hope that's clear. And thanks for motivating me to write what may be the longest post in DDP history
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Old 11-19-2015, 06:56 PM   #309
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

IMHO this is one of the best discussions ever on DD. Informative, revealing, passionate, insightful, few if any personal attacks, etc., etc.

My question is how does Jeff or one of the other pros or advanced screenwriters who do not follow a guru beat sheet or outline actually write a spec screenplay,

It would be interesting if Jeff or anyone else could describe their process from their initial idea or premise through a complete first draft, and then through rewrites. Use one of their specs to walk readers through their process.

It would probably take a book to do the topic justice. Surely there is a market for such a book.
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Old 11-19-2015, 08:37 PM   #310
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Default Re: How can screenwriters control pace? Any thoughts on unintentional slowness?

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So on page 85, make sure someone from the b-story hands the protagonist a fresh idea. The protagonist can't come up with it himself, it can't be from someone from the a-story, it can't come from an encounter with a stranger - it has to come from someone in the b-story, preferably the love interest.
Jeff, you may be misreading this a little.

"Thanks to a fresh idea, new inspiration, or last-minute Thematic advice from the B Story (usually the love interest), the main character chooses to try again."

I think this means that the main character somehow stumbles onto a "fresh idea, new inspiration" OR receives much-needed advice from another character. In any event, this sort of development happens in a LOT of movies. Snyder didn't just pull this stuff out of the ether.

I think about 80% of the objections to Blake Snyder would go away if everyone disregarded the specific page numbers. Can't we just agree that STC is simply a useful tool that may be modified whenever needed?
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