Below is the link to a post called, “38 Reasons Why Your Screenplay Isn’t Getting Recommended by a Script Reader.” The post is accompanied by a chart crafted by an éminence grise who lurks under the mysterious, if humble, nom de blog, profound_whatever. It’s a great work of…well, I don’t know what to call it. Art? Partly. Craft? That too. It’s brilliant.
And it’s frightening. Like a first year med student who imagines he has every condition he learns about, I imagine that my script suffers from every item on the list. The very first script disease listed is:
- The story begins too late in the script.
My script opens with a short Prologue, my protagonist approaching his Inmost Cave. The script then goes back in time to Setup 1, a page of crisis two or three weeks before the main story. From there, I cut to Setup 2, the cause of the crisis, a bit over a page. Then comes Setup 3, a page showing the result of the crisis, a week of so before the main action, followed by two establishing shots, and then…TA DA! Setup 4.
Okay, at least we’re in story time, now. Setup 4 introduces a main character and an important secondary character and gives us some Ordinary World background, three pages, including establishing shots on both ends. This takes us to Page 11 and the next scene, Setup 5, where we actually get to lay eyes on the protagonist once more, three pages of his Ordinary World.
Dominoes have been falling since Setup 1. A domino doesn’t hit the far away protagonist until Page 25, in Setup 10, a Call to outrageous Adventure. The protagonist crosses into another world (First Threshold) at the bottom of Page 34, a bit late. All the subsequent Hero’s Journey stages fall late, also.
I’m going to leave the script the way it is for now, for a dozen reasons:
- The Prologue creates the best Hero introduction.
- The stakes (for both sides) are shown in Setups 1, 2, 3, & 4.
- Setup 2 explains Setup 1.
- Setup 1 yields Setup 3, which leads to Setups 7, 8, & 10.
- Setup 5 yields Setup 6, which leads to Setup 9 & 10
- The Setup dominoes yield the Hero’s Call to Adventure.
- Ordinary World material is shown in Setups 4, 5 & 9.
- Setups 1, 2, 3, & 10 are heavy in conflict.
- Setups 4, 5 and 9 contain humor.
- People in Setup 2 are crucial to Setups 5 and 10, ff.
- Events in Setup 2 are related to Setup 4.
- A shot in Setup 6 plays a part in the denouement.
- The denouement explains Setups 1 & 2.
Disentangling or trimming these threads would leave a lot of vital plot elements incomprehensible or incredible. Much of the later Setups involves getting the right characters together at the same time, which can’t logically happen without the earlier Setups.
Is a puzzlement. But I like it just the way it is.
I love that you’re giving us a peek into the mind of a scriptwriter. I think it’s a great thing to delve into what makes a story rock and what doesn’t. Much of it I read as an analysis, which I enjoy for my own personal growth. Thanks for this!
Jack, you might enjoy my earlier post on m/s difficulty:
Thanks for the comment!
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