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.

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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.

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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.

 

DZ-33: Protagonist vs Hero – Dawn of Character Function

How does splitting ‘character functions’ enhance theme?

We are often told that our ‘protagonist’ needs to be a active. That they need to be compelling. That they need to change. And – old faithful – that they need to be likeable. But after looking at MAD MAX: FURY ROAD, STAR TREK (2009), THE FIGHTER, and SICARIO, Chas and Stu learn that your primary character does not need to do all these things. In fact, they learn that splitting these functions between your primary characters can reinforce theme and create potential for different types of narratives.

And stick around for backmatter if you want to hear Stu go on a rant. For a change.

EPISODE LINKS

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.

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DZ-32: High-Tension Sequences

How can you recreate the feeling of cinematic high-tension on the page?

Chas & Stu take a close look at sequences of high-tension – the ones that make you lean forward in fear, or jump backwards in terror. Without camera angles, lighting, music or sound, how can screenwriters can evoke those emotions in readers using only the page? These sequences can be found in any genre of film, not just thriller or horror. To that end, Stu and Chas dive into high tension scenes from NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, ZODIAC, ROOM, and THE BABADOOK. We cover their use of shifting POV, Dramatic Irony, Status Transactions, White Space, Sound FX, and many more.

And in backmatter we talk SICARIO and high tension, crack open the mail-bag, and look at how the so-called gurus rated the Oscar-nominated scripts.

EPISODE LINKS

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.

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DZ-31: Tools for Better Dialogue

How does dialogue serve to reveal character?

Chas & Stu are joined once again by the renowned script developer and producer, Stephen Cleary. In the first part of our series on writing better dialogue (there will be more!), we take a close look at how dialogue serves character: individuating characters, revealing characterisation, shifting status, and much more.

Together, they (well, mostly Stephen) break down scenes from ANALYSE THIS, NOTTING HILL, REMAINS OF THE DAY and THE AVENGERS. In a first for Draft Zero, we include audio excerpts to make everything even clearer / stop Chas & Stu (mostly Stu) from butchering lines. That, and not everything is on YouTube.

And, in back matter, we continue the discussion into more academic areas of the difference between theatrical, cinematic and television dialogue.

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-30: Oscars revisited – Spotlight and Carol

What makes a script so compelling that it ends up with an Oscar nod?

This week, Stu and Chas return to their first ever episode by tackling two Oscar-nominated screenplays. But this time – instead of exploring the rigid structures laid down by gurus – they use it as an opportunity to explore what they’ve learned in the last three years and apply them to the phenomenal writing in SPOTLIGHT and CAROL (with slight digression towards THE EXPANSE* and GAME OF THRONES).

And so this slightly meandering episodes revisits the excellent execution of catharsis, world-building, mid-points, dramatic point of view, status transactions and more.

* Which has possibly replaced Star Wars as the de facto reference point for anything.

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.

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DZ-29: Showdowns & Scene Structure

What can fight scenes – whether physical or verbal – teach us about structuring any scene?

In exploring how to write good fight scenes, Stu and Chas compare how writers structure memorable showdowns – both verbal and physical. Fights vs arguments. Swords vs insults. Lightsabres vs passive aggressive subtext. To do this, they analyse the showdowns in EASTERN PROMISES, ROB ROY, THE FORCE AWAKENS (yes, yes, we finally let Stu officially discuss Star Wars), A FEW GOOD MEN, BREAKING BAD and BEFORE SUNSET.

As a result, they discover how larger structural elements like mid-points, reversals and act breaks can play out in making individual scenes compelling and dynamic. Also, they learn that great screenwriters don’t just write “They fight” when writing fight scenes.

In Backmatter, we learn that Quentin Tarantino is a listener!

PS: Please complete our listener poll. 

EPISODE LINKS

BACKMATTER

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 listeners.