fightclub
Yeah, I know. I’m breaking the first rule of Fight Club by writing this article. But I thought it was time to dissect a screenplay that wasn’t like anything I’ve dissected before. Fight Club was one of the biggest gambles of the decade. The movie was not traditional in any way. You could argue that there isn’t a single scene in the first 60 minutes that pushes the story forward. Heck, you could make the argument that there isn’t even a plot. But that’s exactly why I wanted to break it down. We look at a lot of conventional stories here. But there are a lot of you who hate the Hollywood formula, who are looking to do things differently. I thought it’d be fun, then, to feature a script that ignores almost every rule in the book. Maybe we can find a baseline for writing one of these screenplays ourselves.

1) If you’re going to ignore structure, embrace theme – I’ve found that these formless, structure-less scripts work best when the theme is strong. That’s because when you don’t have a traditional plot, you need something else to link everything together. Theme becomes that link. Fight Club has a very strong theme. It’s about the frustration of growing up and not getting what the world promised us. It’s about the empty angry feelings that drive us as a result. Have a weak plot? Incorporate a strong theme.

2) Voice over is your friend in non-traditional scripts – Again, when you don’t have a clean plot, a clean structure, you need a way to link everything together. Fight Club jumps forward, backward, backward even more, forward again. There’s no clear goal, no plot. BUT, Jack’s constant voice over guides us through this rocky terrain effortlessly. We’re not really lost because he’s holding our hand. Keep this in mind if you’re writing a plot that’s all over the place.

3) In non-traditional scripts, character is king – Characters are important no matter what. But strong characters become imperative when you don’t have a traditional plot. Since there’s no clear goal driving us forward, the characters become the only reason to watch. So they have to be FASCINATING. At least one has to be SUPER BIG AND MEMORABLE (in this case, Tyler). But even your straight man (main character) needs to be unique somehow. Jack, with his constant rambling and philosophizing, with his insomnia, with his dependence on group therapy, is almost as interesting to watch as Tyler.

4) Use ACTION in dialogue scenes to reveal character – Avoid characters standing around when talking/arguing if possible. Instead, have them (or one of them) doing something that reveals something new about their character. Instead of Jack and Marla (the love interest) arguing over who gets what support groups in a single room, we’re following Marla as she walks across the street, steals clothes from a dryer, then walks over to a thrift shop and sells them. This way, we achieve the characters’ goals (hashing out who gets what support group) WHILE revealing something about Marla (that she’s a thief with no morals who will do anything to get by).

5) Utilize callbacks to initiate consistency throughout your unconventional screenplay – Remember, if you don’t have as clear of a plot, you need to create the illusion of connectivity wherever you can. You do this by bringing up something, then calling back to it throughout the screenplay. So early on we see that Jack’s become a slave to IKEA. It’s a nice funny moment. And that could’ve been it. But later we see Jack sitting on his bedroom floor, assembling IKEA furniture. It’s a callback that creates connectivity – desperately needed when your plot is nonexistent or unclear.

6) No matter how unconventional your script is, make sure it still contains CONFLICT – Even in non-traditional indie cult classics like Fight Club, you’ll see that one of the most important storytelling tools is still utilized – conflict. Our two main characters here are polar opposites. Jack is reserved and careful. Tyler is aggressive and careless. This leads to a lot of fun conflict-filled conversations and scenes. Never underestimate how important of a device this is.

7) Be imaginative – If you’re writing an unconventional screenplay, you gotta go all out. You have to eliminate those filters that tell you “this is right” and “this is wrong.” If we’re going to endure a plot-less story, we have to be rewarded with lots of shit we haven’t seen before. So have fun. Do the opposite of what you’d normally do. We have a 300 pound man with bitch tits. We have characters stealing cellulite out of trash bins. We have Jack chilling out with penguins in a cave. “Different” scripts are your opportunity to highlight your imagination. Don’t disappoint us by putting limitations on that imagination.

8) Your character’s job should sync up with the tone of the film – Fight Club is dark and disturbing. So Jack’s job, naturally, should be dark and disturbing. Jack isn’t a lawyer. He’s a recall coordinator. He decides after a deadly horrifying car crash where teenagers and babies have died, whether that car should be recalled or not. That fits perfectly with the dark tone of Fight Club.

9) Formal sentences are not required in screenplays – As crazy as it sounds, you can use sentence fragments when writing a screenplay, as long as they’re clear. For example, to indicate that Jack is on a street, the paragraph under the slugline begins, “Along a residential street.” That’s the sentence. Would it work in an English class? No. But screenplays aren’t about perfect grammar. They’re about saying as much as possible in as few words as possible. You could’ve used the more robotic: “We are standing on a residential street.” But it doesn’t sound as smooth or free-flowing.

10) These kinds of scripts are nearly impossible to write – I don’t want to end this on a negative note but it’s important you know that I read tons of scripts from writers trying to “break the rules” and “do something different” and they’re usually the worst scripts I read. That’s because it’s hard to write something that doesn’t have a goal, that doesn’t have a conventional purpose, and keep it interesting for 110 pages. It takes an amazing amount of skill and a ton of talent. So I just want you to know what you’re getting into. You’re basically counting on yourself to be one of those one-in-a-billion brilliant writers. But hey, if you believe in yourself that much and want to take a chance? Go for it. ☺

These are 10 tips from the movie “Fight Club.” To get 500 more tips from movies as varied as “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind,” “Pulp Fiction,” and “The Hangover,” check out my book, Scriptshadow Secrets, on Amazon!

  • Kay Bryen

    As a pre-teen girl this was one of the very first scripts I ever read: big mistake. Because it gave me a false sense of how Hollywood works, since the film was almost verbatim what was in the script. Still, I would gladly read a shopping list if it was authored by Chuck Palahniuk.

    • MBClarke

      Did you actually enjoy the book though? Re-watching the film was the only way I had any idea of what was happening?

      Also, is it a Fincher theme week and nobody told me?

  • http://twitter.com/maggieclancy Maggie Clancy

    Awesome, awesome tips. Currently working on a feature that is more character based, but these characters are a bit lawless themselves. Every kink and quirk counts.

  • John Bradley

    Someone forgot the first rule of Fight Club………

    • Jotodahan

      The first two rules actually

  • IgorWasTaken

    The way in which these tips are presented, it’s as if Charles Dickens wrote a book on screenwriting a la Memento.

    Carson’s book comes out first, then it’s serialized at intervals in a daily publication.

  • grendl

    Spoiler.

    *****

    I thought the movie was interesting, but there’s a fundamental flaw in its DNA which I can’t get around, the kind of flaw that Black List reviewers would crucify in their scoring ( I’ve learned they’re perfectionists in an industry of imperfect people and scripts, more lucrative that way ), the kind of flaw that throws the logic of the entire premise out the window.

    If Tyler doesn’t exist, and Ed Norton’s character is in reality beating himself up, how could he recruit people into Fight Club, because from their POV they’re just seeing this maniac punching the hell out of himself.

    It might attract people who are into punching themselves, but how is that an advertisement for a club in which you fight others. Now someone is going to come up with an explanation, and I’ll say it here and now, it’ll be a stretch because it wasn’t conveyed in the film.

    Movies, even bizarre ones still have to adhere to some rules of logic.
    I’d rather talk about the debacle that is “Oz the Mighty and Powerful” though. Anyone want to discuss that?

    • Malibo Jackk

      Spoiler.
      *****

      People did not go around punching themselves in the face after watching the movie.

      In other words, the movie worked.

      • grendl

        It worked for you, but you Malibo Jack aren’t everyone.
        And that doesn’t make sense. The Fight Club in the movie wasn’t meant as a way for people in the theatre to start their own fight clubs.
        I’m talking about the logic of a film. You’re talking about your ability to turn your brain off. Two different things.

        • FD

          Grendl, I think the only fight he has with himself is the one we see on the security cameras. Before that he only beats the crap out of other people; he just doesn’t remember doing it because when he is the Tyler personality, Jack is dormant. I don’t think there’s a logic flaw.

        • Godzilla’s foil

          What Malibo Jackk said makes absolutely no sense. Pay more attention to FD below. The first thing to have in mind is, he’s not fighting himself all the time. There’s the first fight in the street and, if I remember correctly, there’s maybe another one later (or none, the way I remember it now). Second, he fights himself to prove a principle. Others see what he was trying to prove, but they understand it much better than you, grendl, are imagining. They see what they have to do: to pick up a fight, not literally beat themselves up like crazy. Imagine a situation when you are trying to make a point, any point, and then you go and use yourself as the example in that case. That’s what the narrator did, simply.

        • Malibo Jackk

          Was referencing the fights that did actually break out in theaters.
          And no — they weren’t fighting over holes in the plot.

          Movies are never about whether they work for me. Nor are they about whether they work for grendl. They’re about working for a broad audience.

          What you may be talking about is what Hitchcock called Refrigerator Logic.

          There is also a web site I ran across a few years back.
          It takes a look at all the classics and best loved films that Hollywood has produced — and why people hate them.

      • grendl

        BTW, I foresaw a lame defense and damn if you didn’t provide one.

    • ff

      I can’t remember but I don’t think theres’a scene where the 2 of them fight each other is there?

      • carsonreeves1

        Yeah, outside the diner after Jack’s apartment has blown up and he calls to meet up with Tyler.

    • Deaf Ears

      I simply assumed that the first two guys walked over to find out what was up with Jack, he invited one of them to punch him as hard as they could, and then they were off to the races once they realized how alive fighting made them feel. Don’t see any fundamental flaw here, but this could be a difficult movie for those who aren’t good at filling in the blanks.

    • Justin Ward

      You have to give the film the benefit of the doubt through the lens of, ‘suspension of belief’ as it’s such a darn great movie. And it killed at the BO! And it’s a cult fav (I know this does not bode well for story cynics, but it says something.)

      You can apply a logic analysis to any film ever made and you’re going to come away wanting. I had a huge problem with the 6th Sense (not a fan), and Fight Club too for the reason you cite; but it’s a great movie, made 100s of millions of dollars, so I learned to accept its broken logic. I didn’t feel ripped off, I felt rewarded for putting the time in the watch it.

      At the end of the day a film is but an expression of imagination, and logic need not apply (and by that I mean too much logic, too much over-thinking = too safe a story = boring story.)

    • EmpiresFall

      THE PROBLEM OF HOLES
      “Story” by Robert McKee. Methuen 1999.

      Pages 370-373

      THE PROBLEM OF HOLES

      A “hole” is another way to lose credibility. Rather than a lack of motivation, now the story lacks logic, a missing link in the chain of cause and effect. But like coincidence, holes are a part of life. Things often happen for reasons that cannot be explained. So if you’re writing about life, a hole or two may find its way into your telling. The problem is how to handle it.

      If you can forge a link between illogical events and close the hole, do so. This remedy, however, often requires the creation of a new scene that has no purpose other than making what’s around it logical, causing an awkwardness as annoying as the hole.

      In which case ask: Will they notice? You know it’s a jump in logic because the story sits still on your desk with its hole glaring up at you. But onscreen the story flows in time. As the hole arrives, the audience may not have sufficient information at that point to realize that what just happened isn’t logical or it may happen so quickly, it passes unnoticed.

      CHINATOWN: Ida Sessions (Diane Ladd) impersonates Evelyn Mulwray and hires J. J. Gittes to investigate Hollis Mulwray for adultery. After Gittes discovers what appears to be an affair, the real wife shows up with her lawyer and a lawsuit. Gittes realizes that someone is out to get Mulwray, but before he can help the man is murdered. Early in Act Two Gittes gets a phone call from Ida Sessions telling him that she had no idea that things would lead to murder and wants him to know she’s innocent. In this call she also gives Gittes a vital clue to the motivation for the killing. Her words, however, are so cryptic he’s only more confused. Later, however, he pieces her clue to other evidence he unearths and thinks he knows who did it and why.

      Early in Act Three he finds Ida Sessions dead and in her wallet discovers a Screen Actors Guild card. In other words, Ida Sessions couldn’t possibly have known what she said over the phone. Her clue is a crucial detail of a citywide corruption run by millionaire businessmen and high government officials, something they would never have told the actress they hired to impersonate the victim’s wife. But when she tells Gittes, we have no idea who Ida Sessions is and what she could or could not know. When she’s found dead an hour and a half later, we don’t see the hole because by then we’ve forgotten what she said.

      So maybe the audience won’t notice. But maybe it will. Then what? Cowardly writers try to kick sand over such holes and hope the audience doesn’t notice. Other writers face this problem manfully. They expose the hole to the audience, then deny that it is a hole.

      CASABLANCA: Ferrari (Sidney Greenstreet) is the ultimate capitalist and crook who never does anything except for money. Yet at one point Ferrari helps Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) find the precious letters of transit and wants nothing in return. That’s out of character, illogical. Knowing this, the writers gave Ferrari the line: “Why I’m doing this I don’t know because it can’t possibly profit me . . .” Rather than hiding the hole, the writers admitted it with the bold lie that Ferrari might be impulsively generous. The audience knows we often do things for reasons we can’t explain. Complimented, it nods, thinking, “Even Ferrari doesn’t get it. Fine. On with the film.”

      THE TERMINATOR doesn’t have a hole—it’s built over an abyss: In 2029 robots have all but exterminated the human race, when the remnants of humanity, lead by John Connor, turn the tide of the war. To eliminate their enemy, the robots invent a time machine and send the Terminator back to 1984 to kill the mother of John Connor before he’s born. Connor captures their device and sends a young officer, Reese, back to try to destroy the Terminator first. He does this knowing that indeed Reese will not only save his mother but get her pregnant, and therefore his lieutenant is his father. What?

      But James Cameron and Gail Anne Hurd understand Narrative Drive. They knew that if they exploded two warriors from the future into the streets of Los Angeles and sent them roaring in pursuit of this poor woman, the audience wouldn’t be asking analytical questions, and bit by bit they could parse out their setup. But respecting the intelligence of the audience, they also knew that after the film over coffee the audience might think: “Wait a minute … if Connor knew Reese would . . . ,” and so on, and the holes would swallow up the audience’s pleasure. So they wrote this resolution scene.

      The pregnant Sarah Connor heads for the safety of remote mountains in Mexico, there to give birth and raise her son for his future mission. At a gas station she dictates memoirs to her unborn hero into a tape recorder and she says in effect: “You know, my son, I don’t get it. If you know that Reese will be your father . . . then why … ? How? And does that mean that this is going to happen again . . . and again … ?” Then she pauses and says, “You know, you could go crazy thinking about this.” And all over the world audiences thought: “Hell, she’s right. It’s not important.” With that they happily threw logic into the trash.

      • yeebarr

        That’s a great excerpt; thanks for that EmpiresFall!

      • James Inez

        Last month, I got to hear Gale Anne Hurd speak. She’s awesome. Amazing story teller. When her and Cameron were working with Roger Corman, she was impressed with Cameron’s knowledge about all the sci-fi elements of the movie they were working on and thought Cameron was the Art Director, but he was only a model maker. She spoke with Corman about him and the next week, Cameron was the lead Art Director.

  • Logline_Villain

    Carson, great breakdown of great script/film!

    The scene where Ed Norton beats himself up in his bosses office is a personal favorite – it allowed his character to assume power and led to use of voice-over as your friend:

    NARRATOR (V.O.)
    Telephone, computer, fax machine, fifty-two weekly paychecks, and forty-eight airline flight coupons: we now had corporate sponsorship. This is how Tyler and I were able to have Fight Club every night of the week.

  • MWire

    I am Jack’s lack of structure.

  • carsonreeves1

    I want to know what happened to Jim Uhls, the writer, whose only real credit after Fight Club was 2008′s “Jumper.” Yikes!

    • theWB27

      Haven’t read the script…that was before I even thought about that side of movies. But I loved Jumper! Maybe my imagination allows me to enjoy those kinds of movies for more than what they acutally are.

    • BananaDesk

      I never read the script but I’ve always felt that “Jumper” suffered from a lack of direction and a severe gutting in the edit room. I bet the script was much better.

    • JaredW

      I know at one point Uhls was working on an adaptation of Theodore Roszak’s “Flicker,” but that ended up in development hell. I guess it goes to show just how tough Hollywood can be, that you can write Fight Club one minute and be out of work the next.

  • grendl

    But seeing a guy beating himself up isn’t a promotional hook for a club in which you fight other people.
    Fight Club is beating the hell out of other people. How would seeing Alex Jones beating the hell out of himself earn the interest of those who want to take their aggressions out on others.
    Is Fight Club really just people punching themselves in a room?
    Doesn’t make sense.

    • ArabyChic

      In the reality of the movie – not necessarily Jack’s reality, but the soul sucking everyday existence of people in an overly commercialized and isolated world – many, many people are unhappy and welcome pain and the tearing down of society as a reprieve, one example is the priest who is shown getting his face bashed bloody and he responds with a huge grin.

      The fact that a man punching himself in the face is crazy and absurd could be seen as the reason WHY they identify with it – it is against everything that the society they hate and feel imprisoned by is against.

      • grendl

        I just think externalizing ones anger and internalizing it are two separate things.

        Masochism and sadism are two different things.

        A movie which shows acts of masochism while disguising them as acts of aggression against others sends a mixed message.

        Is Norton mad at himself or society?

        And why the hell did I go see “Oz the Mighty and Powerful” when I knew full well it was going to be a bust?
        I’m going to start Movie Club, for people who hate what Hollywood has become yet continue to fund their inanity.

  • http://twitter.com/KennyNOL Will Vega

    I love Fight Club, I wrote my first screenplay while watching Fight Club and Pulp Fiction on a loop.

    I agree with alot of the article on why it’s able to work. I wouldn’t call it an “unclear plot” though. It’s about two guys who form an underground fighting cult that spirals out of control. It only seems unclear because if the fact it goes forwards and backwards in time constantly. Even the whole movie is one big flashback, with flashbacks inbetween. I was completely fascinated that they were able to do this and keep the narrative clear and concise.

    Of course, this was all to keep people from recognizing the twist. This was also the era where movies with twists were big (Sixth Sense came out the same year).

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, and I think Sixth Sense really hurt Fight Club’s box office. Without that movie, Fight Club’s twist would’ve been a lot more exciting and probably driven a lot more people to see it through word of mouth.

      • http://twitter.com/writerjoshjames Joshua James

        Columbine hurt Fight Club… FC was supposed to come out in the summer of 99, and they had magazine covers and everything… Columbine happened and the movie got pushed back, which hurt it, and the violent themes bothered those who worried about trench coat wearing kids wreaking havoc and killing people… because movies are easier to blame than the real reason tragic shit happens…

      • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.snyder.35 Shaun Snyder

        I also think that bad marketing was a factor in Fight Club’s box office numbers. It was being marketed as a movie about fighting, which it wasn’t. Same thing happened to Drive — it was being marketed as a “Fast and Furious”-type action movie. When people went to see it and realized that it wasn’t one of those types of movies, they reacted negatively. Bad marketing can kill a movie’s box office. Thank goodness for home video/dvd.

        • Marija ZombiGirl

          Here in Europe, FIGHT CLUB was deemed “fascist”. So, yeah… Not much success at the BO but at least, the few people who went to see it got the real point :-)

  • http://twitter.com/writerjoshjames Joshua James

    I would take issue that there’s no plot momentum in the first hour… not true, the dramatic question of the first hour (and, I’d posit, the entire movie) is “who is Tyler Durden?” and nearly everything that happens to Jack, his condo blowing up, etc, is about meeting and discovering who Tyler Durden is… Jack finding out Who Tyler Durden triggers Act III, which is, What Is Tyler Doing?

    Remember, the film begins with Tyler putting a gun in Jack’s mouth, and the movie is about backtracking to that point, finding out Who Tyler Is and What Is He Doing? That’s the movie, and it’s got a humdinger of an answer for us… so yeah, there’s plenty of plot, it’s just not conventional, imo.

    I’d also add that the script is remarkably faithful to the book, the book is a remarkable piece of work…. and that Fincher shot the script nearly completely (one scene was moved up to a different place, Jack driving the car off the highway, and it makes it much better)…

    • carsonreeves1

      Yeah, we differ a little on how powerful the engine needs to be to drive a story, but I agree a question can do it. However, despite that opening, which does have us asking, “How the hell do we get here?” the next 30 pages are basically Jack talking about his fucked up life. There’s really no story momentum or “plot” there. Or at least, I wasn’t watching/reading those pages thinking, ‘I HAVE TO FIND OUT WHO TYLER DURDEN IS AND THEREFORE I SHALL KEEP READING.’ For a dramatic question to work, I believe it needs to inspire that kind of momentum.

      • http://twitter.com/writerjoshjames Joshua James

        Except that, once we find out who Tyler really is, that first 30 minutes actually IS about that (because of who he is, in the end)… it may seem like it’s not, but it is… and when you start a movie with a guy holding a gun in your mouth… well, that’s some stakes there, is it not?

  • Midnight Luck

    you are not your F#$%king Khaki’s
    you are the all singing all dancing crap of the world

    then again, maybe you are

  • ripleyy

    Writers need a creative “outlet”, a story or script where they can set aside – and like this one – write something, not out of plot, but out of the sheer release of being utterly creative without worrying about Plot Point #1 coming up in 21 pages time or how the Midpoint Shift needs to be different – in the very end, a creative release is such a good feeling to have.

    Do you want to sell it? Maybe not but people need to stop hearing negativity towards these plotless scripts because they work if you’re being creative and when you’re being creative, you have fun and through fun you release this pent-up emotions you’ve been bottling up and letting it all explode onto the page – they are, at least to me, essential to have – but you don’t want to go around and sell them – you can work on them and have 40 drafts of it but they are nothing more than messy explosions of art, of creative writing, where – for once in your creative life as writer – you’re allowed to just do it.

    If people don’t have ideas like this on paper, then they’ll torment you so I always recommend at least having a couple and if you feel your plotless, messy screenplay about an Art Dealer suffering from a Mid-life crisis is going to sell, go for it.

    In the end, Fight Club dares to say something and say it in the most realistic, brutal way and I feel the theme hits harder than any punch thrown.

  • TGivens

    One of my favorite movies ever! I have a theory about the structure here. Jack doesn’t have a major goal, but the story works, because of his mini goals. Jacks desperately needs to sleep, he goes to group therapy, then Marla spoils his little heaven and he needs to get rid of her. He splits groups with her, he has his groups back, but then his apartment is destroyed and he needs a place to stay and so on and so on.

  • TheRealMWitty

    I have still never been a bigger lover of movies or believer in their possibilities than I was in the fall of 1999, when Fight Club and American Beauty were released within weeks of each other. Two parallel lives-of-quiet-desperation-in-crisis stories with eerily similar plot points (blackmailing your boss for a year’s severance, late third-act reversals when the protagonist backs out of a plan to commit and act of terror/statutory rape, the protagonist taking a bullet to the head at the end, among others), except, as distilled by my friend John P, one is about the agony of realizing that None of It Matters, and the other is about the joy of realizing that None of It Matters. I don’t know what else to add to CR’s script analysis. It’s just that I can never stand to leave a conversation about one alone without talking about the other.

  • Montana Gillis

    Can’t talk about Fight Club. Sorry. However number 9 is a great reminder not to waste a word and leave as much “white space” on the page that you can.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Before Fight Club, the book, was published, a proof was sent to a studio reader — who turned it down. The book was also shopped to several producers — who also turned it down. But here’s the thing I remember hearing. One of those readers told the producer or Fincher (not sure which) that this was definitely not a movie that he would want to make.
    And that’s why he took a look at it.

  • Montana Gillis

    i read no old country for old men the other day and stopped counting typos at 3 by page 30… I found that fascinating.

  • JaredW

    Arguably, the two most important aspects that can make or break a script are the plot and characters. So it makes sense that if a script were to take an unconventional plot/structure, then the characters better be top notch to really draw the reader in. In a way, the unique characters “justify” the different plot/structure. It’s definitely something to think about when trying to craft a script that goes against the grain in terms of structure.

  • klmn
  • http://www.facebook.com/shaun.snyder.35 Shaun Snyder

    It’s interesting how you talked about characters breaking the fourth wall yesterday in your review of House of Cards, because it happens in Fight Club, too (when Jack is telling the audience about Tyler). The “fourth wall” device works in Fight Club, I think, because of the narration, which has allowed us to be in his head the whole time. When it is done well, I like when characters break the fourth wall. It reminds me of Shakespearean soliloquies. They’re like windows that look into the mind of the main character, allowing the audience to have a deep, personal connection with him/her. When those moments work, they work really well (if that makes sense).

  • grendl

    Why would he punch himself in the ear. Anyone can punch themselves in the chin or nose, but he punched himself in the ear.
    That would make sense if there were two of them, but if it’s just Norton, why would he do that? Was Norton uncoordinated? The film didn’t set that up if he was.
    Weird, inexplicable and faulty logic.

  • Ambrose*

    I wonder what the reaction to the script would have been like by readers,producers, et al, if this would have been a spec script by an unknown rather than a script based on a novel by a well-known author.

    • Malibo Jackk

      It wouldn’t get past the reader.
      You will hear a reader boast that they know best what their boss is looking for.
      And then you will hear them say that they NEVER give a RECOMMEND.
      (They’re afraid of not knowing what their boss wants.)

      Clint Eastwood’s reader HATED Unforgiven.

  • Midnight Luck

    The book Fight Club was an absolute revelation when I read it. It is still one of my all time favorite books.

    I was so pleased when I heard Fincher was directing. After I fell so hard for Seven, I just knew he was the right person for this one. I knew he would be spot on.

    He did. He nailed it.

    Thought I did initially think the advertising was really odd. It didn’t occur to me they would lead with the Soap aspect. I think it hurt it. The stark pink and the soap on the poster was cool, but off, and I think it muddied the effect they were going for while confusing the yet-too-be audience.

    I understand other big happenings in the world also affected the movies success too.

    I loved that it was such a close following of the book. They did change the opening; instead of Tyler standing naked in front of a giant Sand castle Hand at the ocean, (if my memory serves right) the new opening, after the gun in mouth, was on the airplane. And the airplane opening was actually much stronger and better. Doesn’t often happen where a movie can outdo a book. In this opener case, it did though.

    This movie is in a class of all time best movies in my mind.

    Seven, Fight Club, True Romance, trifecta.

    • Deaf Ears

      IIRC, Chuck Palahniuk himself said the movie improved on the book in some respects, which isn’t something authors usually say about adaptations of their work.

    • Greg Klein

      I wish I had read the book before I saw the film. I tried reading the book recently but I couldn’t stop myself from reading it in Edward Norton’s voice and imagining all the characters as the actors in the film. Kind of sucks the fun out of reading when you can’t let your imagination create the scenes.

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.orillion Andrew Orillion

    Fight Club had to grow on me. I was a freshman in college when I first saw it and thought it was too silly. I really hated the ending and the whole plot twist.

    A few years later, I was a college senior and all of the sudden the movie made sense. I don’t know what happened, maybe it was a post 9/11 kind of thing, but all of the sudden it was like Tyler was talking to directly to me. Everything he said about life and the world made sense and I fell in love with the movie. I’m still not a fan of the ending, however.

    On a different topic, I have to disagree with Rule #9. Maybe it’s just the journalist in me, but I hate when a screenwriter thinks grammar rules don’t apply to them. Screenwriting is writing and I feel the storytelling suffers if you don’t follow the basic rules of sentence construction. It’s sloppy, breaks up the flow of the narrative and can be confusing. I’ll sacrifice a space for clarity any day.

    Of course, as a former journalist, what I really hate is passive voice. That is like fingernails on a chalkboard to me. But, so many screenwriters use it that complaining about it is like bashing my head against a wall.

    • IgorWasTaken

      Andrew Orillion wrote: “On a different topic, I have to disagree with Rule #9. Maybe it’s just the journalist in me, but I hate when a screenwriter thinks grammar rules don’t apply to them.

      Two things. First, “grammar rules” is a notion that’s contextual. There is a grammar of screenwriting – which happens to not be the grammar of newspapers. Just as the grammars of poetic forms vary, from Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening” to the classic limerick.

      Indeed, different newspapers have style manuals that establish their own grammar. The NY Times stylebook says that writers shall not use “such as”, but instead must use “like”. It allows “none” to take a plural verb form.

      Also, what about your very own post: “Maybe it’s just the journalist in me, but I hate when a screenwriter thinks grammar rules don’t apply to them.” “Them” should be “him” or “her” or “him/her”. But for me, your grammar “mistake” there is fine in “the grammar” of everyday blog posting. Or, “Maybe it’s just the journalist in me, but I hate when
      screenwriters thinks grammar rules don’t apply to
      them.

      I’ve found it helpful to think of “screenwriting grammar” as actually “screenwriting conventions”.

  • cjob3

    One thing i never understood. SPOILERS (but for crying out loud, what are you waiting for?)

    Brad Pitt was a figment of Ed Norton’s fractured psyche or something, right? So in that first fight in the parking lot – Ed Norton isn’t really fighting Pitt, he’s punching himself in the face essentially, correct? So then two strangers approach a guy punching himself and say ‘hey, can we join in?’ Huh? Isn’t that rather strange? Wouldn’t most people just… back away from the crazy man slowly and carefully?

  • GraemeMcPhail

    You have to wonder how far this script would get today. Probably not very!

  • http://twitter.com/panostsapanidis Panos Tsapanidis

    I came to see it BECAUSE of the posters. I had no clue about a book. I didn’t even know who Fincher was at that time. That pink soap and the tagline “Mischief, Mayhem, Soap” was all I needed. Though, I’ve always considered myself among the minority…

  • Malibo Jackk

    You don’t see the irony of COMPLAINING about a plot hole and then –
    ACTING SHOCKED that a reader might complain about the same thing.

    And then there’s the irony that you chose as you target A MOVIE THAT HAS ALREADY PROVEN ITSELF — but not with you.

    And, of course, the final IRONY — that anyone who disagrees with you
    is an IDIOT.

  • cjob3

    Yeah, people rave about that movie but when I ask them about that, they’re stumped. It gets a lot of praise considering what a major flaw that is. Still a good movie, but…

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevin.lenihan1 Kevin Lenihan

    Interesting article and some useful observations. I am curious about the notion that this story didn’t have a plot. I have not sat down and listed the beats, but it seems to me it had a pretty traditional plot.

    First we have the set up, where we find out what Jack’s problem is: he lives an empty life, suffers extreme insomnia brought about by lack of emotional stimulus. Through this lack of sleep and through the quest for emotional stimulus, his identity lines become blurred as he haunts group therapy sessions for issues that have nothing to do with his problem. This seemingly cures his affliction, until Marla shows up and exposes his charade to himself.

    Needing stimulus and having now learned how to reinvent his identity, his subconscious creates Tyler. Act two begins. Through Tyler, his subconscious begins to work out his problems and they create the Fight Club, which evolves into Project Mayhem, through which he declares war on the empty, materialistic world which has fueled his problem.

    In the third act he realizes that Tyler is actually him and grapples with how to deal with the damage being done by this personality he has created. He confronts Tyler, but it is only through his finally admitted love for Marla that he is able to commit the act of self destruction necessary to destroy Tyler for good. Having found and accepted his kindred lost soul his life is no longer empty and his beginning state problem is solved. As a bonus, he has destroyed the underpinnings of modern civilization which was the background for his barren existence.

    These are my amateur ramblings based on a view of the film. Let me add some speculation.

    Did Jack and the Project Mayhem guys really blow up those buildings? I mean those were pretty dream-like explosions, apparently with no shock waves or shaking. It left me wondering what was reality and what was mind created. I suspect that in the end only Marla and Jack were real. Even the fight club itself seems likely a manifestation of his mind. Jack’s journey was to hit “rock bottom”. And he did, squatting in an abandoned house, his mind inventing the rest. Tyler tells him that Jack himself signed for the house, but this does not seem like reality. You can’t rent an abandoned house, and you might not even be able to buy one under those conditions. It seems more likely to me that he squatted there as he bottomed out and his mind did the rest.

    As to the question of how Jack could start the Fight Club if he was only fighting himself at the start, I don’t think it’s an issue. Let’s assume that the fight clubs are real, and the only thing Jack invented was Tyler. We are still being related the story by Jack, not by the police, so we are getting his muddled version of events. I would suspect that in Jack’s mind he fought Tyler, but at some point his first real fight was against a real opponent, and things grew from there. They don’t show that fight, but it’s Jack’s story, he might not even have remembered it. The film is a dream like account by Jack, and his memories are clouded by insomnia and blended with creations of his mind.

    Story technique: I agree with Carson that the story engine is not strong in the early going. Two things keep us tuned one. First, the flash forward beginning leaves us wanting to know who Tyler is and how Jack ends up with a gun in his mouth with bombs about to explode. Second is the clever dialogue. Things have a very indie feel in the early going as the story makes its commentary on the emptiness of modern life. Tyler comes in just about when we’ve had about all we can take of that stuff.

    Well, if you read my whole post, hopefully I have helped with your insomnia!

  • http://www.facebook.com/todd.walker.3597 Todd Walker

    This is a freaking fantastic movie, whether you’re watching it or reading the screenplay. Yes, the plot could be called simple, but it has nothing on the characters. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at the over-big tits man,lol. Then the ending totally shocked the hell out of me. However, it still makes me wonder what possesses a writer to break the rules, but on the flipside of that, if you’re good enough, you can pull it off.

    I do have to say how many people can make a good scene out of watching QVC,lol?! Granted, it’s not a great scene, he’s just sitting there watching tv, but the voice over made it interesting. To be honest, thinking about it, the plot didn’t interest me so much as the characters. After all, you just have a few, okay a lot of guys, going around beating the crud out of each other.

    In regards to #6, what about him and Marla, they seem like polar opposite, or am I wrong? Although reserved, he can’t stand Marla for what is her lack of scruples. Or is he mad because she was crashing group therapy first?

    But something makes me wonder, would we be talking about Fight Club like this if it had different actors in it? If the powers that be made horrible casting decisions?

  • kidbaron

    When the movie hit DVD they offered a 2 disc package that had 4 or 5 audio commentaries. One had Jim Uhls and Chuck Palahniuk talking through the movie. Great stuff. I put it on whenever I have nothing else to watch.

  • fragglewriter

    I watched Fight Club once and hated it. I’ll have to rewatch it to see if it will intrigue me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1081203043 Paul Chanter

    Wish I hadnt read number 10….1 to 9 made me feel my script idea was actually possible for a second.

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