Non-Formulaic, Screenplays



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  • #31
    Re: Non-Formulaic, Screenplays

    Originally posted by asjah8
    yes, very well said.
    Yeah, I just came up with that little baking analogy, but someone could probably write a whole book using that as a guideline. You can't just dump into one pan all the ingredients that you happen to like personally then slap it in the oven and expect a miracle... there's got to at least be an egg involved to bind the different ingredients together (structure), some baking powder / soda (?) for the thing to rise (story), oil or butter to make things digestible (good dialogue, interesting characters?), and then a little sugar to make it oooh so nice (humor, romance?).



    • #32
      Re: Non-Formulaic, Screenplays

      Great, now I'm thinking about brownies too. Thanks a lot!


      • #33
        Re: Non-Formulaic, Screenplays

        The "three act structure" seems more like a template that is placed up against movies whether it fits or not. Making judgments about a work based on the degree to which it subscribes to this structure is silly. It presupposes that it is the ONLY effective dramatic structure.

        You can have all the elements deemed necessary by the three act structure without using it.


        • #34
          Re: Non-Formulaic, Screenplays

          The whole X happens on Y page number thing is self-destructive nonsense. To continue the baking analogy, you can change the proportions of the ingredients you use, you will simply end up with different cookies. And your cookies will taste like **** if you use too much of something that should be used in moderation, like baking soda. However, you're probably going to need flour, eggs, butter and sugar somewhere in the recipe. Or at least some alternatives that function in the same way. Same goes for needs/desires, inciting incidents, opponents, climaxes, revelations. Take one of these out, and you better know exactly what you're doing.


          • #35
            Re: Non-Formulaic, Screenplays

            PART ONE

            There's no getting away from a three act structure. It's there and not going to go away. You describe it any way you want. Give it a different name. Call it something else.. Ignore it.. But it still lurks there underneath. It may be invisible but it's there..

            Because audiences are far more aware of genre movies they become atuned to those beats where something happens and as a consequence they can predict something will happen at a given time within a movie. This is so not only for simple beats but major plot points and reversals.

            Audiences are also aware of the protagonist (hero) character and the antagonist character, henchmen, allies, tricksters, Goddess women and all the other archetypes you can throw at them because of over familiarality. The more something repeats to a formula the more it becomes easily recognizable and hence the cliche.

            It is your job as a writer to experiment with structure, character achetypes, beats, plot points, reversals and present these in a different way, a different manner so when they occur they contain somekind of originality, unexpectness and are not seen as cliche..

            Christopher Nolan's MOMENTO shows that you can play around with structure, re-ordering scenes and sequences and the use of black & white and color can not only affect an audience's perception but also their expectations. For some, because MOMENTO did not conform to what they know, of a traditional plot narrative, but instead manipulated those expectations and presented something else in a different order then there is not only an aesthetic to that but there is also a pleasure can be gained for the audience in trying to figure out the puzzle nature. Not only of the plot but also of the rearranged scenes and sequences so that they may reconstruct the whole in their own mind. Kind of like two games in one. One to deconstruct and another to reconstruct to understand the overall meaning.

            All formula means is using a tried and tested system which can be repeated. It is when these repeated formulas are used that cliche and exhausted ideas and indeed repeated choices and ideas used in character types, scenarios, plot, subplots, plot points, turning points, reversals which become easily recognizable.

            Pulp Fiction is in fact a portamento film consisting of a series of different stories told from the different POV of some of the major characters who also appear in some of the stories or indeed their appearance overlaps from one story to another and in some cases their character acts as a link from one story to another..

            What you have in Pulp Fiction is a series of short stories which fit into a 3 Act structure in such a way to exploit the beats, plot points, reversals, mid point.. Each story has it's own 3 acts within a larger 3 act structure.. There's actually 6 stories in Pulp Fiction but which have some significance or link to another segment or story. In Act one the two stories are "Jules & Vince drive to a meeting". TWO HITMEN, VINCENT VEGA (long hair, white, very mellow) and JULES WINNFIELD (tall, black, and tough) run an errand for their boss. The errand is to collect a mysterious package from some young operators who have failed to keep up their bargain with the hitmen's boss, MARSELUS WALLACE. The young operators are waiting at an apartment in the Valley and Jules and Vince plan to make an example of these disobedient young punks.

            In the course of carrying out their business, the hitmen reveal that they're real people with personal interests and philosphies. They also reveal that they are ruthlessly capable of carrying out their deadly job. The act ends with Jules and Vince retrieving the package and executing the delinquent young operator, BRETT.

            Next, "Vince & Mia's Date" - Vince prepares himself for the worst before meeting the boss’ wife Mia. He’s high on heroin when he meets her, trying to stay cool. But when he doesn’t get flustered by Mia’s pointed questions, his relaxed manner intrigues her. They have dinner and conversation at a retro-restaurant which draws them together. Once they’re home again, Vince is afraid of going too far – but he never gets the chance because Mia overdoses on the heroin he’s been carrying around. He barely manages to get Mia some help and revive her before she dies. Finally he returns her home once again and they agree never to tell Marsellus about what happened this night. Then, when she’s not looking, Vince blows her a kiss as he leaves, revealing feelings that he’ll never tell Mia about.

            Those two stories make up Act One..

            Act Two beings with "Butch & Esmarelda" - When Butch double-crosses Marsellus, it happens off-screen. Butch not only wins his boxing match, but kills his opponent in the ring. In order to enjoy the fruit of this victory, Butch has to escape the arena and cover his tracks. This is all played out in a dream-like cab ride that Butch takes with the exotic cabby ESMARELDA.

            Next - "Butch & Marsellus" - Reunited with his girlfriend FABIENNE, Butch is ready to leave town and never return -- until he learns Fabienne has left his father's watch at their old apartment. This watch is Butch's most prized possession and he risks his life to retrieve it once he learns it's missing. Fate toys with Butch and allows him to retrieve the watch only to accidentally meet Marsellus Wallace on the street. Their confrontation escalates to absurd and unpredictable circumstances before they are able to settle their differences more-or-less amicably.

            Those two stories conclude Act Two..

            Act Three beings with "The Bonnie Incident" - Shifting back in time, we return to the moment Jules and Vincent execute the Young Guy, Brett. Jules and Vince soon face a bizarre set of problems. First comes certain death at the hands of another Young Guy in Brett's apartment, but they miraculously survive. Then, driving home, they accidentally shoot someone in the back seat and have to somehow get themselves cleaned up and out of this high-rent neighborhood without being caught by the police. They barely manage to succeed with the help of a clean-up expert named "THE WOLF."

            Next - "Jules, Pumpkin & Honey Bunny" - After their harrowing time with the Wolf, Jules and Vincent relax over breakfast. Their "miraculous" escape from the bullets that morning seems far from their minds, but they quickly return to that subject. Jules declares his intentions to honor this sign from God and quit everything he's been doing to become a kind of travelling pilgrim. Disgusted, Vince takes a bathroom break during which the armed robbers from the opening scene try to rob this cafe. Jules' faith is tested when they try to take Marsellus' brief case from him. But he remains true to his new beliefs and uses his power to defuse the situation and send the robbers away without anyone being hurt.

            Those two stories conclude Act Three..

            The point is these stories are all told out of sequence. Some of the characters have been in earlier stories within the 3 acts but this does not affect their appearance in any later story they may appear in. The real time of narrative is suspended, manipulated to serve the main goal of telling six stories within a 3 Act Structure. 2 Stories per Act.

            Yes, there are links from one story to another and some of these through-lines cross across the acts themselves. The end of one story acts as a transition to the next but equally a transition to one which may follow further in time on the 3 Act timeline..

            The point is, those 6 stories could be told in order, in the correct sequence but instead manipulating the order presents a fractured narrative which introduces a pleasure of the text because it is not familar. It is unusual and it destroys expectations. What could once be exepected now becomes the unexpected. Exploiting the 3 Act structure this way presents a platform to present the narrative in a different way to an audience and so their expectations are less satisfied with the familiar and so introduces a pleasure of the text in the unfamilar, the unsual, the different. On their own the six stories are not particularly unique or brilliant, sure they have an intrinsic value but juxtapositioned in the manner they are places the audience into a perception of seeing something new and fresh and not the cliche and or expected. So the six stories can work on a higher level of the unexpected because they are told out of sequence which lessens the predictability of something we usually take for granted as familar..


            • #36
              Re: Non-Formulaic, Screenplays

              PART TWO

              A lot of screenwriters are also finding ways to maniplate audiences expectations with character archetypes by combining character types into one which throw the audience off the scent so they can't predict or guess what will happen next.

              BATMAN BEGINS did this with the Liam Neson Mentor character who also turned out to be a henchman for the major antagonist later in the story which was not expected. The idea plays with our expectations. Our ability to guess and predict.

              IDENTITY also played with our expectations by setting up the story where stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rainstorm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one. But at the climax we discover this is in fact in the warped mind of a particular character who probably suffers from Schizophrenia.. Our expectations have been manipulated and the outcome something very different to what we expected.

              Now whether there is story logic or pure manipulation going on this is the question.. In order to tell a story within the confines of a 3 Act structure, which is always there, will not go away because it is a timeline with a beginning, middle and end however you look at it, organic or not, the trick is to come up with devices and choices which are on the one hand unpredictable and service the plot but which also play with convention and turn it on it's head but presenting a conventional story in an unconventiional manner. This means you need to be original and present ideas which challenge structure and expectations, cliche and familiarility and tell a story in a new and fresh dynamic way within the confines of a three Act structure. Something which deviates from the norm to provide the audience with the ability to unravel a puzzle in a fresh new an interesting way that does not call to itself but unravels using those conventions of set up, beats, plot points, reversals, climax, character archetypes and all the other stuff you can list which makes your story stand out from the crowd.. Something unique, different and special which plays with an audience expectations but without removing the pleasure of expectations altogether from the narrative.

              The idea is to lead an audience down a path and make them think your story is one thing and then hit them with something different which enhances the experience using whatever devices in your storytelling toolbox you can muster and sometimes this means thinking out of the box in relation to how you write to fill a 3 Act structure with unpredictability but at the same time not at the expense of expectations and pleasure.. Audiences seek a certain pleasure from watching a movie whatever the genre so there will be certain contraints regarding said genre but this doesn't mean you can't play with those expectations and give them something different, unusual and out of the box and thereby satisfy the unpredictable factor by presenting something familar in an unfamilar way.