Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

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  • Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

    I'm currently developing a spec that tells a true story about a high school sports team in the 1950s. It's a great story that in itself has the yes/no and the uh-oh/oh s*** structure but there's really no antagonist. I looked over two great sport films "Miracle" and "Hoosiers" and both them really had no antagonist either so I have to ask...do all specs have to have an antagonist?

  • #2
    Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

    Many would argue that an antagonist is the most important part of a screenplay â€" they get the story going. As Hitchcock said (something along the following lines), the better the villain the better the film. Conflict, as the basis of drama, is much better when the antagonistic force is represented in a character/force of nature if it's a disaster piece etc. Even within stories where there may be a gang, there is usually a leader and villain on the other end of the scale.

    Ask yourself where the conflict comes from in your story. The antagonistic force could be in the form of the arch rivals or, if your protagonist is the Coach, in the form of the coach of an opposing dominant team, etc.



    Iâ€TMm curious, where does the conflict come from in your story? Who is the protagonist? If it is somebody within the team then does conflict escalate as a result of an individual or a group within the team?



    To me, without a clear-cut antagonistic force youâ€TMve got a hard sell â€" especially since itâ€TMs a spec, without a clear antagonist itâ€TMs like youâ€TMre relaying the story reminiscent of documentary storytelling and the like.



    In short, identify the antagonistic force; itâ€TMs crucial to the story. You might even base the story loosely on the sport and write an antagonist into it.
    Last edited by Hazeem; 09-27-2005, 11:05 PM.

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    • #3
      Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

      I'm sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but an antagonist is anything that gets in the way of the "hero." The volcano in Volcano and Dante's Peak.

      Hoosiers did have an antagonist. I saw the movie once and it was years ago, but I remember people in the town giving the coach crap about winning and how he coached. Sort of like that Billy Bob football movie.

      If there is nothing getting in the way of the main character, then there is no goal. If my goal is spending the summer touring the country, what gets in my way could be money or job or family, or it could just be my own fear of leaving home, but if there is nothing in my way, then I'll be touring the country this summer.

      So we can be our own antagonist--wasn't Dexter Green the protag and antag in Winter Dreams?--but there has to be something or someone.

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      • #4
        Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

        I have seen Miracle and from what I can remember the antagonist is the Russian Ice hockey team, with the team represented by the Russian coach. It is a classic David versus Goliath story. I remember reading once (Trottiers Bible I think) that it is ok to have an organisation like a team, or a company or the IRS as your antagonist as long as you have one person that can represent the organisation as a character in the screenplay, like a coach.
        It may be hard to see the Russians as the antagonist in Miracle because they do not show up until towards the end, but they are always there hanging over everyones head. We don't need to cut away to see them training for the olympics as well. We know that they are the best in the world and no one has beaten them in forever by listening to the USA Hockey suits getting all their coaches/players together.

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        • #5
          Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

          Some stories have an antagonist (source of the main dramatic conflict) and some have antagonistic forces that do not spring from a single antagonist.


          By having an antagonist you can focus the story on a clear and tangible antagonist that must be overcome to crystallize the hero's dramatic struggle and the success or failure of achieving the dramatic goal.

          The the case of Miracle, the goal is to win the Olympics. The antagonist opposing them is the Russian hockey team. Defeating the team crystallizes the journey and clearly expresses the hero's success at achieving the goal.

          While it's true that the antagonist in Miracle was not a single evil Russian, the team was a group antagonist that acted as an individual who were all after one goal (to win the Olympics) which created a single conflict for the hero (who also wanted to win the Olympics).

          HTH

          Fortune favors the bold - Virgil

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          • #6
            Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

            It's a good question because antags are not always in human form. See Places in the Heart, Twister, etc.. I n Raging Bull, Lamotta is his own antag.

            If you have conflict, you have an antag by default.
            "I ask every producer I meet if they need TV specs they say yeah. They all want a 40 inch display that's 1080p and 120Hz. So, I quit my job at the West Hollywood Best Buy."
            - Screenwriting Friend

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            • #7
              Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

              do all specs have to have an antagonist?
              Yes, not only do all specs need an antagonist but all stories need them as well.

              Sounds like you've hooked into a story you're passionate about which is cool but the caution with "real stories" is they have the potential to get real boring. Once you've laid out the foundation of telling your story, through out the history and concentrate on entertaining us with a compelling plot and engaging characters. The only way we come to understand a character is through his action/reaction to conflict. The only way there is conflict is there is an opposing force to achieving a goal... that force (wait for it) is the antagonist.

              I love it when I bring things full circle!

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              • #8
                Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

                Thinking of it as an antagonistic force rather than an individual antagonist is a better approach, I think. I've seen films try to simplify the antagonist concept and use one person to represent it but ring false in the process. The challenge is to show the antagonistic force visually, which is generally easier to do if you have a person as the antagonist.

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                • #9
                  Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

                  Well, I watched LADDER 49 last night and was disappointed. There was NO STORY - and a big part of that is no antagonist. You could say "fire" was an antagonist, but that's a cop out, I think. Almost as bad as saying the antagonist was "adversity".

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                  • #10
                    Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

                    They need to have a central conflict. That conflict *usually* comes from an antagonist or a physical force of antagonism.

                    So - what keeps the team from winning?

                    - Bill
                    Free Script Tips:
                    http://www.scriptsecrets.net

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                    • #11
                      Re: Do Specs Have To Have An Antagonist?

                      The antagonist doesn't have to be a person, as I'm sure someone has already said, but I'm too lazy today to check.
                      ~* Kelsey *~

                      http://kelseytalksaboutmovies.blog.com/

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