DZ-43: Driving Sequences – Character and Plot Intensity

What gives your sequences their intensity?

Chas and Stu are joined for the fourth time by the inestimable Stephen Cleary – this time to take a deep dive into sequences. A real deep dive. A 3+ hour deep dive.

Stephen postulates that sequences can compel the audience in different ways via the type of dramatic questions being posed. Are they plot questions (“Will she defuse the bomb?“) or character questions (“Will she understand what compels her to defuse bombs?“) or a combination of both? What is the impact on the pacing, structure of your story or audience experience of your characters by changing the type of question being asked? What happens to your story when your protagonist decides to literally abandon the plot?

Our deep dive roams through THE BOURNE IDENTITY, NAKED, THE DIVING BELL & THE BUTTERFLY, THERE WILL BE BLOOD, FARGO (the movie) and CHILDREN OF MEN… with many-a-tangent referencing HEAT, FRENZY, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, AMOUR, CHEF, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, THE KINGSMAN, FURY ROAD, THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES, LIVING IS EASY WITH YOUR EYES CLOSED, MOONLIGHT, and probably some more that we’ve forgotten.

SPOILERS ABOUND!!

Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3.

PS: Thanks to all our listeners who provided feedback on a draft edit of this episode.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

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DZ-42: One-Shot – Character Worldview & Macro POV

What screenwriting lessons can be we learn from SPLIT?

In our first (and perhaps last) one-shot, we take a close look at the M. Night Shyamalan’s SPLIT. Rather than having one topic with many examples, we use the one example to look at many topics. Well, okay, a few topics.

Firstly, we take the opportunity to revisit theme. SPLIT offers a very clear example of the worldview of the characters and the rules of the world working together to create a coherent theme.

Then we look at the SPLIT’s use of macro point of view. Given the film’s contained nature, it makes some interesting choices in the story structure in order to control what the audience knows vis-a-vis the characters. This assists in generating tension (in both conventional and unconventional ways) while also creating a dramatic journey for the protagonist and reinforcing the theme.

We also cover (in lesser detail) flashbacks, tactics, contained spaces, character individuation, and… being a M. Night Shamalyan film… TWISTS.

And if its not obvious… this episode is FULL OF SPOILERS.

Love it, hate it or indiffererent, please let us know what you think of this new format. We’re not going to do it every episode, but it gives us the opportunity to look at some great films in more detail.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-41: Theme and Worldview

How can your characters’ worldview dramatise your theme?

In this episode, Stu and Chas tackle one of the more esoteric topics in screenwriting (and writing in general): theme! To help us tackle this topic, we decided to look at television pilots, because we felt that television requires the theme to be more explicit. Our zig-zagging (and long) discussion covers thematic engines, music themes, thematic loglines, punishment vs reward, and – perhaps most of all – the worldview of characters.

So we take a look at the opening and closing scenes (and middle scenes, too) of some of our favourite shows: HOUSE OF CARDS, CRAZY EX-GIRLFRIEND, TRUE DETECTIVE, FARGO and TRANSPARENT. We also make passing reference to SPEC OPS: THE LINE, GAME OF THRONES (its Stu’s new Star Wars), and BOJACK HORSEMAN.

In backmatter, we talk about the difference between the written scripts of these pilots and their released versions.

Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3.

It should go without saying but – SPOILERS AHEAD.

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-40: Tactics and Scenes

How do tactics make your characters and scenes more dynamic?

In this episode, Stu and Chas turn their gaze to the “tactics” that characters use in scenes to get what they want. Tactics are how the characters try to achieve their goals and (we reckon) can be revealing of the essence of their character. The shifting and thwarting of tactics can make scenes more dynamic; while over the course of a story, the changing of tactics can reflect the growth of characters… even if their goal stays the same.

We take a close look at great single scenes from ZODIAC and TRAINING DAY. And then we look at a number of scenes over the course of HELL OR HIGH WATER, SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and WINTER’S BONE.  And we also skate over WILE E COYOTE, GAME OF THRONES, MACBETH, HAMLET, and EDGE OF SEVENTEEN. Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below!

It should go without saying but – SPOILERS AHOY.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-39: Backmatter – Hitting LA, Receiving Feedback, and a Roguish One

How can writers make use of their time when hitting LA?

In another backmatter-only episode, Stu & Chas zig-zag through a range of topics. We talk about Chas’ experience(s) hitting both Los Angeles and the Austin Film Festival, effective networking, career capital, the art of receiving feedback, and Stu’s harsh Three Strikes Rule. We look back at the most important lessons we’ve learned about storytelling in 2016 and that leads us to talk about character choices in a little-known and little-talked about film called ROGUE ONE.

And, of course, we open the listener mail box for critiques, praise, suggestions and follow-up to earlier episodes — especially our Exposition two-parter.

Thanks to everyone for their support in 2016! We look forward to erratically bringing you new episodes this year.

BACKMATTER LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners

DZ-38: Excelling at Exposition (Part 2)

How can exposition twist your story in new directions?

In the second part of Draft Zero’s two-part episode on “Exposition”, Stu & Chas take an even deeper look at this notoriously challenging part of screenwriting. For many stories there are pre-existing facts (or given circumstances) that need to be communicated to an audience, and often we rely on dialogue to do it. But exposition can do more than just communicate, it can serve as dramatic revelation that twists a story into a new direction or provides an emotional payoff – or both!. So how do great writers make exposition work for the story, rather than just tell audience stuff they need to know? And how can writers go wrong?

To that end, we look at GONE GIRL, SHUTTER ISLAND, GHOSTBUSTERS: ANSWER THE CALL, THE MATRIX, THE MATRIX RELOADED, and CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER. Audio quotations are included for educational purposes.

It should go without saying but in case you missed it SPOILERS AHEAD.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-37: Excelling at Exposition (Part 1)

How can you successfully integrate exposition into your story?

In Draft Zero’s first two part episode, Stu & Chas take an in-depth look at one of screenwriting’s most common challenges: EXPOSITION. For many stories there are pre-existing facts that need to be communicated to the audience — whether those facts be about the rules of the world, the nature of a location, character motivations, character backstories or just character names. So how have great writers made exposition move the story forward, rather than stopping it to tell the audience stuff they need to know?

To that end, in Part 1 of Excelling At Exposition we break down scenes from PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL, SHORT TERM 12, INSIDE OUT, THE WORLD’S END, THE BIG SHORT, IT FOLLOWS, JURASSIC PARK and JURASSIC WORLD. Audio quotations are included for educational purposes.

Many thanks to /r/screenwriting for suggesting so many examples.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-36: Backmatter – Time Risk and Fixing Movies

How can writers wisely invest their time in projects?

In this “special”, backmatter-only episode, Stu & Chas take inspiration from Terry Rossio’s excellent article on TIME RISK and ice skate over a range of topics. We talk about time investment in projects, Stuart’s project Restoration, doing you down work first, managing feedback, thinking positive being a negative, and we open the listener mail bag for critiques, praise and suggestions. We also explore how we could do Draft Zero episodes exploring tone and theme.

We welcome any listener feedback as to whether we should do any backmatter-only episodes into the future.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-35: Driving Characters or Character Driven?

How can films maintain audience interest without stakes or plot questions?

Continuing their focus on “character”, Stuart and Chas take a close look at films that may be considered character-driven… or rather character studies… or just plot-lite films? Whatever you call them, these films —CHEF, HAPPY-GO-LUCKY, and AMOUR — let their plots take a back seat to a closer examination of their characters. Stuart and Chas dive in to investigate how, without plot driving the story forward, do these films maintain our interest? We talk Mike Leigh’s ‘Running Condition’, Character Choice, SceneWork and the myriad other techniques the filmmakers use to keep us interested.

PS: There is no backmatter this episode.

PPS: Note that all these films are writer/directors. Hmm.

EPISODE LINKS

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.

DZ-34: Game of Choices – Decision Making and Character Implications

How does the experience of a character’s decision impact our feelings towards that character?

After a spectacular end to Season 6 of GAME OF THRONES, Chas and Stu were struck by the very different portrayals of Sansa in Episode 9 – Battle of the Bastards and Cersei in Episode 10 – The Winds of Winter. Despite both characters having an enormous impact on the narrative, the audience’s experience of those characters is very different — largely because Sansa is absent from 98% of Battle of the Bastards.

And thus: Stu and Chas embark on an exploration of how a writer’s use of point of view – particularly in relation to how you show characters making decisions – can control how your audience perceives any given character (for good or ill).

Whether you are a Game of Thrones fan or not, we recommend you watch these two episodes for their contrasting but fascinating control of point of view and character. Both episodes were written by showrunners David Benioff & D. B. Weiss.

EPISODE LINKS

BACK MATTER

Please send feedback to ask at draft-zero.com, via our web form or twitter @draft_zero  We are @chasffisher and @stuwillis on twitter.

Please considering rating or subscribing to us on iTunes! or sharing us on the Social Medias! We like finding new listeners.