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Old 05-23-2017, 09:51 PM   #1
msdynamite666
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Default Multi-protagonist structure

I am planning on writing a movie in which various characters and stories interconnect.

My holy trinity is Short Cuts, Happiness and Magnolia.

Anybody got any advice? Specifically with regards to character goals and how to structure? Do act breaks and beats apply to individual stories or to the overall film?
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Old 05-24-2017, 10:04 AM   #2
Timmy
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

It doesn't change just because there's more than one protagonist, the principle is the same.

It's really a protagonist question though, what makes a character a protagonist.
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Old 05-24-2017, 10:30 AM   #3
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

It helps to lay things out visually so you can track it all. I've heard for shows like Arrested Development they wind up basically making conspiracy theory looking things - all the characters and beats laid out and color-coded, string connecting them to each other, the whole bit.

Anyway, the main thing I've noticed with stories that have multiple protagonists is that the storytelling has to be really tight. You have less time to develop characters and such than you would for just one protagonist, so everything needs to be really intentional.

Sorry I can't be more specific than that...I guess just watch as many films like this as you can and see what you can glean.
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Old 05-24-2017, 03:33 PM   #4
Centos
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

Quote:
Originally Posted by msdynamite666 View Post
My holy trinity is Short Cuts, Happiness and Magnolia.

Anybody got any advice? Specifically with regards to character goals and how to structure? Do act breaks and beats apply to individual stories or to the overall film?
I don't know any of these movies, but the first step I would take is to find these scripts and study them. I'm having trouble finding Happiness but the shooting script for Magnolia can be found here ...

http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/magnolia.html

And the 3rd draft of Short Cuts can be found here ...

https://issuu.com/lafamiliafilm/docs/short_cuts

I think you can buy the shooting script of Happiness on Amazon.

Good luck.
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Old 05-24-2017, 07:32 PM   #5
msdynamite666
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

You're a star!! Super helpful
Quote:
Originally Posted by Centos View Post
I don't know any of these movies, but the first step I would take is to find these scripts and study them. I'm having trouble finding Happiness but the shooting script for Magnolia can be found here ...

http://www.dailyscript.com/scripts/magnolia.html

And the 3rd draft of Short Cuts can be found here ...

https://issuu.com/lafamiliafilm/docs/short_cuts

I think you can buy the shooting script of Happiness on Amazon.

Good luck.
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Old 05-24-2017, 10:03 PM   #6
Cyfress
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

Movies like this often look at a broad topic like parenthood. Follow a few different families around as they deal with the ups and downs of raising kids. In the movie parenthood they are connected because they are related.

Pulp Fiction is about a Boxer getting paid to take a dive from an LA crime boss and it's also about a Hitman who is pondering giving up the business who happens to work for the same crime boss.

The multi-protagonist structure is different than the solo. You have to do different types of things with the sequence and the direction of the narrative.

The answers to a strong ensemble story is in that connective tissue. The subject matter that all characters have in common. You need to do extensive research in that interconnective tissue and come up with various POVs on it and create various outcomes to it.
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Old 05-29-2017, 05:19 AM   #7
TheConnorNoden
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

I've been working on something similar for years now. The first thing, and I can't stress this enough, is that it is incredibly difficult. I'd be happy to go into more detail at any point if you like but one of the main hurdles with having so many characters/stories is that it's hard to get a natural flow. You can be doing a scene focusing on Story B and the next scene is suddenly about Story E. My guiding light through it all was to avoid "and writing". Try as best as you can to have a sense of a cause and effect from scene to scene so that there is always a sense of purpose so that it doesn't meander too much. All those stories and characters should tie into the overall story and its resolution, or if it isn't story focused then they should be united by theme. One trouble I've had is not having a constant and clear vision of the themes in mind so it again becomes messy and unfocused.

Whatever it is that your primary theme is that is what all the character's goals should revolve around. While it will take longer I wouldn't worry as much about structure in the first draft. Find the characters, their wants, their voices. The further you get you may find that what you considered to be the story of multiple Protagonists may only have one true Protagonist.
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Old 05-29-2017, 08:42 AM   #8
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Default Re: Multi-protagonist structure

You could also write a Vince Vaughn/Owen Wilson type story like Wedding Crashers or The Internship. That is a more straightforward structure. Two characters, one goal and ACT 2 climax is always a breaking of the friendship and one of them gives up.

Writing a movie about a group of characters bouncing around their life and having light interaction with each other is not easy to pull off. David Copperfield started with making a paperclip disappear and eventually got to The Statue Of Liberty.

In those movies the dialogue is top notch, we all talk about lines from Pulp Fiction. The situations characters find themselves in are extreme for the genre. In Pulp Fiction Bruce Willis bumps into Ving Rayms. Wills tries to run him over. He wrecks. They are both down for a bit but come too. Rayms starts wildly shooting. Willis is f'd up but gets out of the vehicle and starts limping away, he is hurt. Rayms chases, firing as he stumbles, shots going everywhere. Willis ducks into a storefront, hides and as Rayms comes in he sneak attacks him. Knocks him to the floor, gets the gun and is about to go for the kill shot. A shotgun is cocked behind him and a voice tells him to stop. The two of them wind up be tied up and ball gagged. They happened to go into a homosexual, S & M hangout and are about to be raped.

I'd be willing to bet on that these kind of scripts are no one's first sale. Cause, you could write an ensemble and get the movie GO. The big problem with these movies is there is no big bang at the end. What is the audience working toward? They are not sure and at the end they are left unsatisfied, unless it's a Pulp Fiction type gem.
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