BSA204:Structure

This week we looked at the structure of classical Hollywood feature films:

  • Three acts: set up, conflict/crisis, resolution
  • Turning points: moments that cause the story to move in a new direction
  • Pinch points: moments that remind the character of the ‘threat’
  • Main event: the big event in the middle of the film that pushes the story forward

I found this article by Michael Hauge that describes the “5 key turning points of all successful screenplays”. He describes the basic plot structure as follows.

  • Stage 1: The Set Up
  • Turning point 1: The Opportunity (10%)
  • Stage 2: The New Situation
  • Turning point 2: The Change of Plans (25%)
  • Stage 3: Progress
  • Turning point 3: The Point of No Return (50%)
  • Stage 4: Complications and Higher Stakes
  • Turning point 4: The Major Setback (75%)
  • Stage 5: The Final Push
  • Turning point 5: The Climax (90-99%)
  • Stage 6: The Aftermath

 

We had a discussion on this structure in class where we talked about how short films don’t often follow this structure, partly because of time constraints and partly, as someone pointed out, because short films are meant to be experimental. Sometime this structure can be a useful guideline to follow when writing a short film, but i think it’s much better to  find ways to be creative without using this structure.
Another thing we discussed that I thought was an interesting point is that even feature films are now steering away from the traditional structure of feature films. Filmmakers are now becoming freer in the ways they write their stories rather than sticking to a rigid, predictable structure. Audiences get bored of seeing the same story and being able to predict what’s going to happen, they like to be surprised so I think it’s great that filmmakers are now allowing themselves to write stories that are different and surprising.

 

 

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BSA204: A Girl Like Her

backgroundAs I said, I wasn’t well this week and because of this I took a few days off, Tuesday afternoon included.
I watched a film while I was at home and it made quite an impact on me. I spent most of the film either on the verge of tears or fully crying. The film was A Girl Like Her by Amy S. Weber. It’s the story of a girl who attempted suicide after being bullied by a girl she used to be friends with.

What is different about this film is not only the way it is presented as a documentary, but the way it seems to follow the bully more than the bullied. Bullying is very important issue, but it seems that most often the bully is ignored. This film seems to address the issue that both parties are equally as important. They both need help and the people that hurt are hurting too.
I think that presenting this film as a documentary made it even more powerful as it felt more personal, more real compared to presenting it as a drama.

The title, A Girl Like Her, is very clever because it refers to both the girls this film focuses on. It’s for the girls getting bullied, and the girls doing the bullying. I looked on the film’s official website and saw a quote from The Washington Post that said “it has the power to engage teens on all levels”. That’s quite true, like I said, it’s for girls on both sides of the issue, but it’s not just for the girls. It will also impact the boys. And not only those directly involved in the bullying, but those who look on and do nothing, it’s an encouragement to stand up, say something, and get some help.

I felt this story on a personal level because bullying was the reason I left school and was homeschooled. I wasn’t bullied to the extend depicted in this film, but what I experienced as a young child impacted me deeply and I sometimes still feel the effects of it today.

I think this film does an excellent job of making the viewer aware of both sides of the story of bullying and in a way that makes it a powerful, personal experience.

 

http://agirllikehermovie.com

BSA204: Table Play

The second assignment for Screenwriting is due on Tuesday afternoon. It is a table play and that more or less means a story with two people talking. It reminds me of having a conversation with your mum at the kitchen table. The biggest challenge with this project is making the story interesting. There is a limited amount of stories that can be written that are set in one location with two people just talking.
After doing a class exercise of creating a character and putting them in the table play situation, I thought I had a good story for my screenplay. I wrote the step outline (a course of action for your screenplay) for this story and sent it to my tutor. I wanted to have a slight comedy element running through the story, but when I talked about it with Patrick, it became clear to me that it just didn’t make sense.
As I tried to rework the story so it made sense, I started to really hate the story. It was becoming incredibly dull and that’s not the kind of work I want to hand in.

Eventually I came to a much simpler idea – two children having a play date,  bickering about what to play and, at the end, getting along.

The criteria for the table play:

  • Two characters. (A third is permitted with prior tutor approval)
  • One indoor setting
  • A clearly established main character/protagonist
  • Character goals
  • Evident structure
  • Dilemma and/or conflict
  • At least three status changes
  • Character arc(s) are developed and resolved.

During the process of my new table play I focused mostly on ensuring I had clear status changes. The way I incorporated these changes of power between the characters was to have them almost bully each other at times, as children do.
I do have a third character, the girl’s mother, appear briefly in the story, I haven’t yet received approval from Patrick on this. Hopefully he will give me the all clear before I’m rushing to hand it in!

BSA204: Poppy & Tomh & A Pumpkin

On the menu for screenwriting this week was the table play – dialogue driven stories – which is what we will be writing for our next assignment. When I hear the term ‘table play’ I always think of conversations at a kitchen table, which is a little boring I think.
We read through a script in class that was more solely dialogue driven (I don’t know what it was from) and I found it helpful for opening my mind to new settings. This story was set outside and inside a woman’s home that almost sounded like it could be a cave at some points.
One of the biggest challenge with writing a table play seems to be creating really interesting and engaging characters. Alongside this is the most obvious challenge – writing interesting and convincing dialogue, but I think this would come quite naturally once you’ve got the basis of a compelling character. Since I don’t yet have an idea for my table play, thinking of some interesting characters will probably be my next step.

We also discussed what a ‘status change’ in a story is. In story terms, the ‘status’ of a character is their position their relationship with another character or the balance of power between the characters. Their status depends on the character’s personality and how they interact with other people. If a character is naturally demanding of respect and intention, if part of their personality is somewhat intimidating, they become the dominant character with the ‘upper hand’, even if their social standing is rather lowly. The character with the upper hand is the character with the power in the story, but, as we learnt today, there will generally be a shift in power during the story, or several shifts. These power shifts help the characters and the story to develop, so it is very important to include them.


 

Poppy and Tomh (don’t forget to pronounce that ‘h’, my friend) and a pumpkin. Sounds ridiculous, no? Well, I assure you it isn’t entirely. We did an exercise in pairs during class to help us create characters, situations and status changes. Kate and I worked on a story that I thought was reminiscent of the story of Hansel and Gretel. It took us a while, but we eventually settled on our two characters being Poppy (6) and Tomh (8) who live with their father who is single and sick. They grow vegetables in their garden to sell for money and, this year, they’ve grown a huge pumpkin and Poppy believes it will win the Pumpkin Contest at the annual county fair. They take their vegetables to the fair and Poppy enters the large pumpkin in the contest. Poppy’s huge pumpkin wins the contest and she wins a smaller pumpkin made of gold. Pleased with this result, Poppy wants to take the golden pumpkin home to show her father to make him proud of her. Tomh, aware that winter is fast approaching, wants to sell the golden pumpkin so they can get food, medicine, seeds for future crops, clothes and mend blankets.
Our story takes place on the children’s journey home through the forest. Poppy thinks she has the upper hand in this situation as she believes the golden pumpkin belongs to her and she has the say on what is done with it and this puts her in control. Tomh, being the oldest and a boy, is sure he always has the final say.
We didn’t really get too far in our story, but we did decide that the first shift in power comes when Poppy stops to pick flowers passing her prize to her brother. Since Tomh is now in possession of the golden pumpkin, he has control over what happens to it.

Screen Shot 2016-04-05 at 7.56.26 PM
Above are the basics of our characters and their objectives. 

BSA204: Casting Call

I don’t have a lot to write about this week for screenwriting. We didn’t have class on Tuesday because it was a public holiday.

I suppose the most relevant thing for BSA204 that happened week was the annual Casting Call.
It was a bit of a crazy process actually. Firstly, we didn’t have a huge amount of warning that, as the second years, it was our responsibility to organise it, and, secondly, we didn’t really get started on the organising as early as we should have. Kate and I ended up doing the catering for the crew on the day too so that was an extra bit of stress too! That being said, I do enjoy cooking for people and seeing them enjoying what I’ve made, it’s very satisfying. And the food was delicious, if I may say so myself.

I had a chance in the afternoon of the day to sit in on some auditions and take notes which was a really great experience. Before doing that, I didn’t really know what happens in auditions and I realised that if I want to be in the film industry I really should know.
There was such an interesting mix of people who came through in the couple of hours I was in the room with Dan, Josh and Nicola, from a couple who spontaneously came in having never done any acting before to Ben who had been a drama student and was an excellent voice actor. It actually surprised me how many people came in to audition for voice acting and had no interest in actually being on screen as I had assumed most people would come in for screen acting. Maybe they were all just in other rooms?

After Nicola was talking about getting ideas for people to act in her productions later in the year, I tried to watch the auditions in a different way. I tried to see where I would place these people as characters in my own stories. I guess I just sat there trying to stereo type them, but if I was doing it for artistic purposes it’s okay, right? There were one or two people who stood out to me that I would strongly consider using, but the problem I had is that I don’t have any ideas for stories at all at the moment. I’ve got nothing I want to write or make right now, just haven’t thought about it yet. As I watched the auditions though, I found myself thinking about creating stories around the people I was seeing, around the characters i thought they would naturally fit. I’m not sure that’s quite the right way to write a story, but I guess I’ll find out!

BSA204: The Beat Sheet

In the last few days I was struggling to fit my idea for a story to the requirements for this screenplay. My biggest problem was finding a want/need that was simple enough for a short film as the original want/need was happiness. Duncan pointed out during one of our classes that a want like happiness is the kind of want can be achieved in a feature length story rather than a short film. I focused myself on finding a simpler want or a simpler way to convey the happiness want, but decided it was near impossible and I just don’t have enough time or the right words floating around in brain right now to be able to do that.

Naturally, I began to panic a little about not having an idea with only a few days until the due date, but like a miracle straight from heaven, a story came my way. One of my friends (who shall remain nameless) shared a funny story with me that happened to her – she got lock in a toilet and had to climb out. I thought this would be an excellent story for my screenplay and could easily be done with little to no dialogue! So I set to writing my beat sheet…

 

“Stuck” Beat Sheet

  • Friends doing shots in a club
  • The friends are dancing
  • One of the girls (Leah) stops and signals that she’s going to the toilet
  • Leah heads to the bathrooms where there is one other girl
  • Leah goes into one of the stalls
  • While she is in there the other girl leaves so she is now alone
  • Leah finishes peeing and moves to unlock the door
  • The door won’t open. She is trapped.
  • Leah bangs on the door and calls out. No one comes
  • She goes to kneel down on the floor but sees it’s very dirty
  • Leah looks around for another solution
  • She decides to climb up and over the door
  • Her high heels make this process very difficult
  • She moves the rubbish bin by the door
  • Stands on the toilet
  • Steps over to the bin while reaching for the door
  • She pushes herself up and over
  • She skirt snags on the top of the door
  • Someone walks in and sees Leah hanging over the door
  • The other person, looking shocked, turns and walks out without saying anything
  • Leah unhooks herself and drops down
  • She stumbles a little, knocking the locked door
  • The door swings opens
  • Leah shouts in frustration

BSA204: Visual Thinking

Having our script writing classes with Duncan Sarkies this week has been a really great experience. I’ve enjoyed the way we’ve been able to write down our ideas for stories and characters, real or made up, with just about no restrictions. There have been some exercises that have pushed me out of my comfort zone, such as “expand and advance” where a character name and location were the only things we had to begin a story with and our partner would tell us when to expand on an object and when to advance the story. That particular exercise pushed me out of my comfort zone because I like to take my time to describe things and really think out where my story is going. Duncan explained that the point of the expand and advance exercise was to create a world and to think about the things that drew us in and caught our attention.
My favourite thing Duncan has had us do so far has been to think of a photograph that means a lot to us and write about it describing in detail what is in the photo and why it means what it means. I wrote about a photo of my Grandpa that I particularly like. Here’s a little of it:

An old man, a grandfather, stands tall and proud, dressed in his thick, well worn swandri. His legs are covered with the dark green of his favourite overalls,  his trusty redband gumboots wrapped around his calves and feet. He stands on a cracked concrete footpath, shepherding stick in hand, a smile set on his face that says his life is fulfilled.

I really enjoyed this exercise because it made me think really hard about the details of the picture and immerse myself in that world. There were a couple of details that I wrote about that I’m pretty sure aren’t actually in the photo, but I don’t think that matters too much. What I think matters is that they were details that I related to the picture and are some of the things that make the person, the place and the memories important to me. Those sort of emotional connections to ideas and stories make them worth telling I think.

BSA204: Creating a Story

I’ve decided to try and link my non-dialogue script with my project for professional practices where I am going to do a series of photographs focused around issues of self image and depression. While I’ve been trying to work out how to do these photos it’s been helping me to figure out the story for my first screenwriting assignment. The main idea I have for the photography project is to start with a happy, vibrant coloured image of a girl with no make up and then slowly fade out, over about 5 photos, to black and white and the girl, looking not so happy, with full face make up. I’d like to translate this into a screenplay through a story where the girl is reflecting on her process of being unhappy with her appearance…

The girl (who I have creatively referred to as “G” in my notes) stands in front of her mirror inspecting her freshly made up face. As her eyes bore into her reflection, memories of her happy self flitter through her mind. She sees herself before she cared about make up and whether or not people saw her as beautiful.
While the girl is adding final touch ups to her face, the memories slowly progress through the stages of her covering her face by wearing more and more makeup and, consequently, becoming less and less happy. Suddenly, she realises what has been making her unhappy (which is shown through a final flash of her naturally faced, happy self). She stares again at her face. Then slowly she begins wiping off the layers of makeup.

Now that I have a solid story in mind, I’m really looking forward to writing this screenplay. It’s still going to be a challenge I think, especially for me to be able to adequately describe what is in my head!

BSA204: The King’s Speech Review


The King’s Speech is the story of King George VI’s struggle with a speech impediment and Lionel Logue, a speech therapist, who treated the King before and during his reign.

I found this film inspiring and also grounding. Seeing someone born into a privileged and powerful position struggle with something most of the world take for granted reminded me that everyone is human, we all have struggles in simple things that others take for granted and no one is exempt. I find this story inspiring because it is a true story of overcoming and learning to believe in yourself.

King George VI (or Bertie as he is most commonly referred to as in the film) is the main character of The King’s Speech and I think he is a very inspiring character and historical figure. I really enjoyed this character because I think I was inspired by him from the beginning where his weakness, his speech impediment, was displayed. I found this moment inspiring because, even though his struggle of making a speech to thousands of people, as well as having it broadcast live, was a painful experience, he pressed forward and did the best he could even though it was clear he really just wanted to curl up and die.

My favourite character on the other hand was Lionel Logue, Bertie’s speech therapist. Again, the first moment the character was introduced influenced my decision on this. Logue’s introduction is incredibly informal which is of stark contrast to the characters introduced prior to him. He yells from the toilet to a potential client that he will be out soon, even mentioning that he is “in the loo”. I really appreciated the humour he brought to the film the moment he entered it and the everyday human personality the moment promised.

There are many engaging moments in this film, but for me the most notable is the opening scene. Bertie, this powerful, important and respected figure, endures the humiliating experience of stuttering incoherently through a speech in front of thousands (and broadcast live to thousands more) while they watch on with the face of a disapproving father. I found this particularly engaging because it made me invest emotionally in the character as I experienced his humiliation and made me root for him to succeed.

When I first watched this film I about 16 and I remember beginning to lose interest when Bertie and Lionel have a slight falling out. I think I just got bored at that age, but now when I watch this film (it is now one of my favourites) I don’t lose interest and I think that’s probably just because as I’ve matured so have my tastes in films (they don’t have to be full of action to be interesting) and I now understand the story more.

Personally, I don’t think this film has weaknesses, it is an excellent film and so is one of my favourites. This film was wonderfully directed and the acting was superb. I heard in an interview with Colin Firth, who plays King George VI, that he gave himself a bit of a stutter for a few months after filming because of his dedication to his character.
I also think a strength of this film is it’s great use of symbolism in the backgrounds for the characters in Logue’s office and also the way that it could be considered that the microphone is the antagonist (I wrote an essay on this, Patrick, if you want to read it).