I worked briefly for a film and theater producer who liked to speak of “pushing plot through” a script, as if plot were a waste product excreted through the screenplay’s GI tract. That makes the process, and the producer, sound crass and uncultured, but it was just the opposite: I can think of hardly anyone (certainly not most writers) who had such a sophisticated understanding of plot, who could see a story beat by beat. If yours wanted for drama, if its characters sometimes lacked motivation or some aspect of its narrative felt contrived, he could fix it, and not by cheapening or sensationalizing the plot, but by showing you, on your own terms, what the stakes really were. Tellingly, he eschewed the term plot arc, which summons a tidy rainbow of conflict and resolution, in favor of that uglier but truer “pushing plot through”: what a compelling story needs isn’t a clean trajectory but a healthy appetite and a good digestion.
Seriously, this guys exists? Sounds like my long-lost best friend. I wholly embrace the infinite and eternal plot analysis compulsion. I’m not sure I fully understand the processes of pooping out plot; but that’s okay, I am distracted easily.
What we really want to assimilate is Computational methods for detecting mood, tone, sentiment, or perhaps even affect. Extracting plot arcs from fiction. Quantifying sentiment. Vonnegut’s Man in a Hole. Paul Harvey. A finite number of plots. Plus, Blood Meridian. This emotional valence sounds like the business.
If only I could figure out how to run George Saunders and Danielewski through the Syuzhet package. Then probably tattoo those plot graphs somewhere. Oh, and don’t break the capitol sin of the Internet: Don’t read comments.
Be forewarned, these are hard and fast rules that supersede formatting, style, and etiquette. Immutable. Rules that ensure success. Rules for screenwriting, radicals, drug-running, and life in general:
1. Excuses are boring.
2. Hustle > talent.
3. Put the damn thing to bed.
Ahh, the Black List. Obligatory cool kids club for screenwriters and crib sheet for development folk. Interesting to see they dispatched the whole under-the-table script trade slash screenplay hording aspect this year and distributed a dropbox link of all the scripts directly to the masses. I guess I’m all for not having to do illicit back-alley deals or arm-twisting the mailroom kids to read what’s in circulation, but I do wonder what the consensus is of the screenwriters that appeared on the list. Franklin Leonard should do a survey. Actually scratch that, he probably already does one since the Black List is all bout dat data . I guess the idea is that getting reads is never bad, but I’d probably feel a little conflict at being distributed to the internet at large.
I also wonder if/when the Nicholl Competition might start doing something similiar. Already they’ve started to evolve the whole competition process beyond the ‘closed door’ precedence, providing feedback, posting snippets. (Which I’ve missed out on completely having not entered since that was implemented). It will probably come down to the profit line. If Franklin sees measurables from the dropbox distribution (and reports on them) I’ll bet a dime that the Nicholl eventually revisits their quarter & semi list distribution process.
Anyway, I’m not really gonna offer up comments about the quality, concept or execution of the scripts on the list this year, but there was one other little thing that sticks in my craw. A compatriot in my screenwriting workshop brought to attention, via ScriptShadow’s comment section, that one of the scripts on the list this year was an unacknowledged lift of Kind Hearts and Coronets. It was a decent read, but for sure that plot, characters arcs, framing, etc wholesale larceny. And I know T.S. Eliot and Aaron Sorkin like to say “Good writers borrow, great writers steal,” but point of fact, Kind Hearts and Coronets is still under copyright, which took me all of two seconds to find in a copyright.gov search, so I’m thinking maybe some undue negative attention for the writer with the most machismo first middle last name string I’ve seen in a while (seriously, bro?). So, uh, good luck with that.
Meanwhile, let’s all be sure to take a second and thank Prince, God and the Hollywood Foreign Press.
From the Grandparent’s estate. FFC wrote ‘The Godfather’ on one of these, I discovered this just before starting a new spec that is somewhat resemblant. Stop goofing with me, Spacetime, I am masochistic enough to try and write a whole spec on this thing. As soon as I find a Victrola with which to blast some Irving Berlin.