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The other day, I was talking to a friend. He’s more a director than a writer. So he doesn’t write unless he has to. And it so happens this is one of the rare times he’s writing one of his scripts. He said he could use my help. So I met with him and we talked through a bunch of ideas regarding the characters and the plot, and by the time I left, I felt like the script was ready to go.

A couple of days later I called and asked how the writing was going. “It’s not,” he said. I naturally asked, “Why not?” There was a long pause. “Because I don’t even know where to start.”

I live and breathe screenwriting. I know all the ins and outs of the medium. So it’s easy for me to forget that for many people, looking at 110 blank pages is like looking down into an endless black hole. The prospect of knowing where to begin, and then of how you’re going to fill in all those pages, seems impossible.

I’m hoping to erase that fear today. To give you all a little guidance. You see, to write a great script, your writing must have PURPOSE. We, the reader, must feel like you have a plan in place – that you’re bringing us somewhere. So before you do anything with your script. Before you write a single word. You need to know HOW YOUR STORY ENDS.

Think about it. How can your driving have purpose if you don’t know where the trip ends?

I call this: The Check Point Method.

You set yourself a series of check points to write towards. And you start with your ending. That’s going to be your final check point.

How do you come up with an ending if you haven’t even started your script yet? It’s easier than you think. What is the problem that sends your hero on his/her journey? Once you have that, you know what they must do to solve the problem. And the climax will be their attempt to solve it.

In Wonder Woman the problem is the evil German baddie who’s waging World War 1. The climax, then, will be her battling that villain, trying to take him down.

If you were to, say, came up with an idea about a group of kids in a small town who start seeing a creepy clown, it’s pretty clear how that script should end. They will have to battle the clown! So there you go. You’ve just identified your climax. Which gives you your first check point to write towards.

BUT.

That check point is still really far away, isn’t it? You’ve given your script SOME purpose. But it still has the potential to wander around in circles before it gets to that final check point. Which means we need MORE check points!

The big plot beat that comes before the climax is the second act climax. What typically happens at the end of the second act is you main character reaches his lowest point. The bad guy gets away. The hero loses his girlfriend. Your NAVY SEAL’S entire team is killed. Your character has hit rock bottom.

Which means that for your second check point, all you have to do is figure out how your hero reaches his lowest point. In “It,” for example, all the friends get in a fight and break up. They leave one another. How the hell can they defeat It if none of them are talking to each other? Look at that. Another check point’s been added that’s even closer to the start of the script than the climax. All of a sudden, this giant black hole isn’t looking so giant anymore. Crafting a story starts to seem possible.

Let’s keep it rolling and find another major plot beat that happens even closer to the beginning. For example, in “It,” you have that haunted house the kids always see. You know you’re going to have to build a set piece into that haunted house somewhere. You may not know what the scene is yet. But you know something big needs to happen there. So, once again, you make that another CHECK POINT. “Kids get stuck in house for some reason. Major battle occurs there.” We’ve just added a third major check point to the story. This isn’t looking difficult at all.

By this point, we’re almost backed up to our midpoint. The midpoint is usually when a major plot beat occurs, something that adds another dimension to the story or sends it off in an unexpected direction. You could argue that in “It,” this occurs when the “Losers Club” fends off the bullies and befriends Mike Hanlon. A new member has joined the group. An EVEN CLOSER check point to write towards. The script, now, is even smaller.

We also know that early on, we want a series of scenes where It scares the children. That can become our first major check point of the movie – “Each kid gets scared by It in a unique way.” That means that after your script’s opening, when you set up your characters, you have FIVE CHECK POINTS to write towards.

1) Series of scenes where kids get scared by It
2) The Losers group befriends Mike Hanlon after fighting off the bullies.
3) Big haunted house set piece.
4) Friends break up.
5) Friends battle It.

The idea with these check points is to make it so you always have something to write towards, which means your story always has purpose. If you don’t set up these check points ahead of time, you’ll find yourself scrambling for plot ideas and story directions, which inevitably lead the story nowhere. If you’ve ever run out of steam on a screenplay around pages 40-60, this is usually why.

Now remember, you don’t have to limit yourself to five check points. You can include as many check points as you want. And I’d argue that the more you figure out ahead of time, the better. The writers of “It,” for example, may have known beforehand that they wanted “It” to kidnap Beverly near the end, which motivated the Losers to regroup and go after It. So you’d slip that check point in between numbers 4 and 5.

To truth is that the less check points you have, the more likely you are to get lost. If you have to cover even 20 pages in your script with no check points to write towards, there’s a good possibility that that section will lose focus.

Also, you don’t have to start at the climax like I did and work your way backwards. I just find it easier because the two easiest plot beats to figure out are the Climax and the Hero’s Lowest Point. And both are at the end. Feel free to start forming check points at the beginning if you want. Just make sure you have your ending figured out before you start writing. That’s the one non-negotiable check point. Your climax guides the entire story as well as all the check points before it. So you want to have that one down.

I find that one of the most common issues in amateur screenplays is an unfocused narrative. The writer doesn’t have a plan. And a lot of that comes from not having your major plot beats figured out ahead of time. Figure those plot beats out, CHECK POINT THEM, then write towards each, one at a time. Keep it simple guys. That’s the name of the game.

  • Lucid Walk

    First one! I’m back, baby!

  • Poe_Serling

    Thanks for the article, Carson.

    This current string of evening posts (in my time zone) still catches
    me off guard.

    Keep ‘em coming… sorta nice to be near the front of the line every
    once in a while.

    • PQOTD

      You’re somewhere in the Pacific, Poe? NZ? Hawai’i maybe?

  • Justin

    Smart smart smart smart smart smart smart.

  • Morguloth

    So…Outline?

    • Omoizele Okoawo

      Right. Love outlining. Nothing worse than being fifty pages in and either you don’t know what to do next or you feel like your ideas are stupid.

      • brenkilco

        Absolutely agree. Though I still don’t outline. As long as the stuff is floating around in your head it’s great. Reducing it to a meager, emaciated two pages is just too depressing. Mental block thing. And yeah, it does mean you end up tearing up pages. But at a bare, bare minimum you can’t or at least shouldn’t start a script without knowing how it begins, how it ends and at least vaguely what’s going to be happening in the middle.

        • Poe_Serling

          Zontar, the Thing From Venus approves this message.

          ;-)

          Yesterday I couldn’t remember the other ’50s flick often
          mentioned in Alien threads – and yeah, It! The Terror from
          Beyond Space is the one.

          The writer of It!, Jerome Bixby, also scripted one of best
          known Star Trek episodes from the original series, “Mirror,
          Mirror.”

        • filmklassik

          There’s a program called Write or Die that’s ideal for people who hate outlining. What it does, basically, is open up a no-frills wordprocessing program where you’re forced to write the number of words of your choosing — 1,500, let’s say — in a set amount of time; a half hour, an hour, two hours, whatever. But during that time, the moment your fingers stop tapping the keys a timer starts counting down from 30 seconds and when it reaches zero your screen turns blood red and annoying klaxon alarms of the kind heard in SILKWOOD start blaring from your speakers and don’t switch off until you start typing again.

          And no, I am not making this up. It’s a real program. What it does is, it allows you to get a down n’ dirty first draft of whatever it is you’re writing – – novel, screenplay, bar mitzvah invite list, what have you – – onto the page so that you’ll have something to work from and revise.

          With screenplays, you can block out the rough structure and intent of your sequences and if necessary fill in specific dialogue later on. So you can write placeholders for yourself such as:

          EXT. OFFICE BUILDING – DAY

          Brekilco pulls into his parking spot and kills the engine; exits his compact. Filmklassik is walking by and smirks.

          FILMKLASSIK
          Makes snide remark about the size of Brenkilco’s car.

          BRENKILCO
          Make funnier remark about the size of Filmklassik’s penis, practically reducing him to tears.

          Brenkilco strides toward the entrance as Filmklassik looks after him, speechless.

          Although I do outline, I’ve been using Write or Die for the novel I’ve been working on (intermittently; alas) and it really does work.

          • brenkilco

            Now if it also came with electrodes that delivered increasingly unpleasant electrical shocks as the deadline approached it just might work for me. Funny all my projects contain ‘world class dialogue to be filled in later.’

          • filmklassik

            Ha! I find my ego takes less of a beating when I write “Eszterhas-level dialogue to be filled in later.”

            Seriously though, you should look into Write or Die. Check out their website. Not sure how much it costs these days (I got it maybe 3 or 4 years ago, through a promotion, and it was pretty cheap), but if the price is right, I’d pounce.

    • Scott Crawford

      You need to have an idea, a concept, your script must be about SOMETHING (and not just random ideas stuck together) and what is must be different, fresh, personal, not just another cops and robbers, boy meets girl, cabin in the woods. Must be something new.

      You need to know something about the characters and what they want and what they might want to do to get it. If the story is about people robbing a bank you’re going to want to know HOW (research), whether they are successful, and what are the consequences.

      Point is that there are things you need to know, in your head or on paper, before you start to write otherwise there’s too much chance of either a) picking the most obvious idea to write or b) picking the most RANDOM idea to write or c) writing such a mess you have to write the whole thing out again.

      New beginnings and endings can be written, scenes can be inserted and rearranged (thank you, word processors) but if the fundamentals are wrong, it’s back to page one. And if that’s your Methodism fine, but as TerryRossio points out, you’ve just found a much longer way to outline.

      • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

        Too many MUSTS in your comment section, Scott. What we’re talking about here is PLOT CONSTRUCTION, NOT a finished product. Going from nothing to something, doesn’t mean going from nothing to a lock solid, polished final draft that’s ready to be set on Speilberg’s desk. A lot of story writing is FINDING and exploring new story elements as to how they fit and work in a grander picture. It’s not all about settling on the finished product right from the get go.

  • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

    Check point method = use INDEX CARDS! They really help see your story as a whole.

    Carson, I hope your friend figures it out, BUT if he needs help you could always recommend a writer HERE that you wanna throw a bone to.

    • filmklassik

      Been a Sharpie & index card man for years now. It’s old-school — probably dating back to the forties, if not earlier — but is there another, easier method that allows you to see the “flow” of a story at a glance as well as that one does? I have yet to encounter it.

  • Malibo Jackk

    Link’s last pod cast had a cute gal who had 60 imdb credits.
    Mostly movies made for tv.
    Not sure how she can write so fast
    — but suspect she following a similar system.
    Nor sure how memorable those credits are
    but she’s in demand and gets the job done.
    And she’s got a cute (tooth paste commercial) smile.

    Link – if you’re out there – what’s the system?

    • jbird669

      What’s the address of Link’s podcast? I googled Link screenwriting podcast and it went to John August.

  • Scott Crawford

    I’ve been very interested lately in simple but effective stories, wondered how I could distill a whole story down to just a few sentences. This is what I came up with, for whatever it’s worth.

    THE SETUP

    • Malibo Jackk

      Kinda like the idea.

    • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

      Solid.

      I do something similar – I do have one more tent pole I set up before what you refer to as “Hero’s Big Action”. I call it “REVEAL OF ROAD LESS TAKEN”

      It probably only means something to me – but it’s meant to convey the barrier or reason that the protag can’t/won’t just take the common path to solve whatever challenge he faces. e.g., sees a murder and can’t call the cops because…Wife cheats on him and can’t confront her because…..

      The reason I include it as I often find there are many little checks I have to get to to establish the barrier by the time the hero’s big action is primed to go.

      Anyway – like you method.

  • scriptfeels

    Carson! Thank you for this article. I’ve several scripts in various places and outlining seems to be a major weakness for me. Today’s article felt like it was made just for me haha. Really appreciate the writing method laid out today and will hopefully come back at a later point to say thanks again. Now the hard part for me is deciding on an ending. A few of my scripts/stories in progress I have an ending I like, but a few are still too open ended, so maybe those stories should get pushed aside and I can focus on the ones with more concrete details on the plot. I’m also happy It was used as an example, definitely makes it feel more possible to write entertaining scripts.

  • Citizen M

    Interesting article, and a different way of looking at the problem of constructing an outline.

    Usually I start a script at a hundred miles an hour and run out of steam around page 40, mainly because I don’t know where it’s headed.

    But I’ve had an idea rolling around in my head where I know the ending but aren’t sure how to get there. This article might have given me a method..

  • HRV

    I find myself to be more of a spontaneous outliner. I have general ideas in my head as to where I want my story to go, but I enjoy the ride/adventure while writing — getting a feel for my characters then putting them in situations they have to work themselves out of — letting the story write itself as they say.

    For those of you who were involved with my Time Ring loglines a couple of days ago, here are a couple of updated versions to comment on:

    A military vehicle restorer finds a ring that transports him back to World War II to rescue a beautiful Resistance fighter trapped in post D-day France, but their future together is threatened by the efforts of an SS officer and his troops.

    A World War Two buff falls for a beautiful French Resistance fighter he spots in old photographs, and with the aid of a time ring goes back to find and rescue her while trying to avoid discovery and death by determined German forces.
    …and in lower case!

    • Scott Crawford

      Ok, you’re probably sick of me by now. That’s ok. Make me your hate figure!

      I think it needs a more SPECIFIC (unique) conflict. Like a bomb that goes off when the train slows down or a man who can’t tell a lie or his nose will grow big. What you have is, in its way, a dog biting a man. He goes back to Nazi times and battles an SS officer. Not an SS officer with a machine gun for a hand. Just an SS officer.

      On a more positive note, I think military vehicle restorer is more interesting than a buff.

      And, for THIS story, that method of not outlining might work well. Just let your imagination run free!

      • HRV

        Why would one get sick of a person who is trying to help?
        This is more a character than plot story. It’s an romance surrounded by action/adventure/mystery. The stakes are for Wade to find the girl of his dreams, hope they connect and get out of harms way. Wade doesn’t let on that he’s from the future, but as he gets to know Nicole it’s revealed that there’s at least one other ring and that she has been the unfortunate victim of its power.

        • JakeBarnes12

          I loves me a hero who wants to find a hot chick and get out of harm’s way while millions are dying to save the world.

          • HRV

            Sarcasm? The story isn’t about him saving the world. It’s written on a more personal scale. He does plenty of fighting.

          • JakeBarnes12

            Our boy better learn that it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

          • Scott Crawford

            Yes, I wasn’t going to bring up TCOTEOF but that WAS what I thought of when I read this (also Hanover Street

          • HRV

            This story has nothing to do with saving millions.

          • JakeBarnes12

            What happens if he doesn’t save the resistance fighter’s life?

          • Scott Crawford

            Her death will inspire the resistance in their fight. Shades of Timeline.

          • JakeBarnes12

            I’m asking the writer.

          • Thaddeus Arnold

            I think Jake makes an important point. The stakes aren’t big enough. Making her survival integral to winning the war is more interesting than him saving her because he’s smitten with a photograph.

          • Scott Crawford

            Ok… maybe she dies. After the photo was taken she dies. And that’s sad but that’s war… but when he goes back he sees that she’s killed by a traitor on her own side. A quisling! So it wasn’t a heroic death, she was betrayed. So he goes back in time, saves her, kills the quisling – yes!

            So he goes back to the present and he looks her up… only to find out she died, killed in the Indochina war (or something). But a HEROIC death. So he learns that rather than trying to save her FOR HIMSELF he needs to save her so she can save other people and die heroically. Or something.

            Kneads werk.

            But I think thinking that way, about twists and consequences, gives it more of a short story quality, an O Henry twist. And a possible theme.

          • HRV

            If he fails, he doesn’t get the girl or correct her timeline. He also loses the ring to THE SS captain and has to fight to get it back. The girl actually does get killed once.

          • Scott Crawford

            THAT should go in the log:

            Man goes back in time but loses ring to SS captain and has to get it back.

            I knew it was there SOMEWHERE.

            “After falling in love with a photo of a resistance heroine, a military vehicle restorer uses a time travelling ring to save her life only for the ring to fall into the hands of an evil SS commandant.”

            Shave a few words off and I think we’re there.

          • HRV

            Okay, so we really haven’t changed a whole lot, just brought out a couple of dtails. You see, the writer basically needs to provide a synopsis for others to assist.

    • brenkilco

      Couple of thoughts on the loglines. Problem as I see it is that your hook- smitten guy from the future- isn’t really your story which is whatever is going on in the past that the protag gets involved in. All your telling us is that it involves some wartime running around. And it isn’t clear that having a protag from the future really affects the action. Does it? If so how? Can he for instance, anticipate the villain’s actions because he knows historically what went down? What’s unique about the adventure he becomes embroiled in? Right now it sounds like an elaborate setup for a conventional payoff. Need to tell us more and if possible reduce your word count. Hey, if it were easy…..

    • Jarrean

      Hmm…

      This reads like the movie Passengers, only with substitutions.

      I would go ahead and remove “beautiful” from the logline– it sorely stands out. Also, I think there needs to be more at play here. What is the conflict of the story? Sounds like it needs greater stakes.

      So he doesn’t get the girl….nothing dramatic changes in his life. He goes back home and finds a girl in his own time…. More connective tissue is needed.

      Best of luck!

      • HRV

        Not like Passengers. He has a hard time getting girls in the present, because as he states, he feels like he was born in the wrong time. Finding and learning how the ring works opens up all kinds of possibilities for his future.

        • HRV

          I put beautiful in there as a way of saying female.

          • JasonTremblay

            Yes, god forbid anyone think it’s a man. Although that might make it more interesting.

          • Scott Crawford

            Now THAT’S a specific conflict.

          • HRV

            In this day and age it’not as obvious.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Does he find the photo and ring in an old military vehicle?

      • HRV

        No, the vet. who found the ring in North Africa has died and Wade and his dad are called to come out and look at his stuff. The vet’s hobby was photography and he took lots of pics that he meticulously catalogued.

    • Jaco

      I can read these! I said I’d check them out – so I will.

      For me, neither of these loglines “works”. It’s a fine line between being too vague and too specific. Too vague makes the log boring . . . too specific makes it too confusing. I think these logs have too much factual info in them w/o giving any true sense of what your compelling throughline is.

      Since it doesn’t sound like this story involves your protag saving the world, I suggest working with something simple (based on logline for SOMEWHERE IN TIME):

      A lonely antiques dealer uses a magic ring to travel back in time to WWII and meet the French Resistance fighter whose picture he finds in an old suitcase.

      To my ear, “magic ring” sounds goofy in a logline – so you could even distill it further and go with:

      A lonely antiques dealer travels back in time to WWII to meet the French Resistance fighter whose picture he finds in an old suitcase.

      Based on the info you’ve given, I’m having a really hard time finding a way to craft a more punchier logline . . . try working with this:

      When lonely antiques dealer travels back in time to meet the French woman whose photo he finds in an old suitcase, he must find a way to join the Resistance or risk altering the fate of this woman and humankind forever.

      Yikes – not sure I like that one at all . . . but that’s all I got.

      Good luck.

      • HRV

        Okay, he’s not an antiques dealer and the photograph was found in an album in a box. The issue I’m seeing is that everyone want’s to go bigger and put the world at stake. The Time Travelers Wife was about their relationship in a more subdued setting. I dumped my characters in the Second World War to raise the stakes for them, and give them interesting surroundings, but the story is still mainly about them and THEIR predicament.

        • Jaco

          Exactly – your story doesn’t involve save the world stakes – so don’t put it in the logline.

          You need something to describe your protag that rolls off the tongue a lot better than “military vehicle restorer” . . . a single word would be best . . . two at the most . . .historian? Military historian?

          • HRV

            Exactly. Save the world stakes are not in any of my loglines, they just keep coming up in the comments. I understand about the description, but then we get back to being vague.

    • Poe_Serling

      Just based on your loglines…

      You could steer the project toward a more Somewhere in Time vibe.

      Remember the ’80 pic revolved around a playwright traveling back into the
      past to meet the actress that he has fallen in love with after seeing her photo
      hanging on a hotel wall.

      That particular film’s legendary cult status tells me one thing – there’s an
      audience out there for old-fashioned romances.

      Just a thought. Good luck with it.

      • HRV

        It was actually inspired by SIT, but with minimal similarity. My goal was/is to cater to a wider audience — an action romance.

      • Jaco

        Somewhere in Time . . . you are in my head today!

        • HRV

          Love the score.

      • Erica

        I was thinking Midnight in Paris myself.

    • HRV

      How about this one?
      A military enthusiast must keep his time travel ring out of German hands to succeed at rescuing the French Resistance fighter he has fallen for.

      • Scott Crawford

        Yeah, pretty good. Bit awkward phrasing, although I like how short it is. Maybe…

        “After falling in love with a French resistance heroine and travelling back in time to save her, a military enthusiast must keep his time travel ring out of German hands (or risk altering the course of the war).”

        The part in parantheses is optional since it makes the log too long and may be unnecessary.

        • HRV

          Yeah, and I think it would be somewhat of a given as to what the Germans would do if they had the power to time travel.

  • Scott Crawford

    Scriveners very good for this type of writing. Any scene you already have in mind you can write, then arrange, then write the rest as you like. David Hewson, a working novelist, wrote a very good book on how to use Scrivener for writing:

    https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11359184-writing-a-novel-with-scrivener

  • Erica

    I’ve always said the best way to start writing is with the ending. You have to know where you are going before you leave. The amount of detail is up to you. More is not always better. Just because you have a check point doesn’t mean you can’t move it or tweak it. Sometime when writing, your characters surprise you and you end up moving the goal post. That’s okay. I think some people get in their mind that you need pages and pages of outlines and can’t deviate from that outline so they choose to write free. You don’t, you could literally use Carson’s 5 points as your outline and begin writing. As long as you have that brief or as detailed outline, you have a plan.

    Sure some write with nothing, and I’m sure a few can pull this off effectively, but I would wonder if writing free means more work on the second draft?

    • Scott Crawford

      I’ve been reading this a lot from novelists; clearly, they have a lot more to write but they don’t want to plan EVERY scene. But knowing the ending gives them something to work towards.

      I’d also want to know the SPECIFIC conflict the characters were facing – a shapeshifting monster, a conspiracy involving the Queen – so whatever happens I could always draw on that conflict, that situation for plot ideas.

      For example, if you were writing Speed WITTHOUT AN OUTLINE, you could always throw in gap on the freeway, a oneway street or a baby carriage in the road to keep things interesting. You can rewrite or reorder these things later.

    • HRV

      It’s always said: Know your ending before you begin writing. That doesn”t mean that sometimes it won’t change by the time you write to it.

      • Scott Crawford

        We don’t talk about Star Trek enough around here! Star Trek: The Motion picture, based on a TV pilot script called In Thy Image.

        http://memory-alpha.wikia.com/wiki/In_Thy_Image

        They had an ENDING (V’Ger is really Voyager VI) so it was sort of like a short story – what if an alien intruder was really a satellite that had become sentient. But the ending went through LOTS of changes (rewrites on set). The whole getting up and leaving was improvised by the CAST.

        Alright, Motion Picture gets little love but I LIKE it.

        Another example of starting at the end and working backwards was THIS. Jan De Bont DREAMED this scene and then he and Jeff Nathanson worked out what happened before that, and then what happened before THAT. You know, backwards.

        I liked it.

        • HRV

          I think most people weren’t keen on it because of the long visual spectacle in the middle, where nothing much but sights happened.

          • filmklassik

            Yeah, my memory of that movie – – and I literally haven’t seen it from beginning to end since it opened back in 1979 (holy crap!) — is that it looks amazing but the midsection is a slog. But I do remember thinking that the reveal about V-Ger being the Voyager satellite was quite clever. I feel like there’s a much more satisfying 100 minute version of that movie buried in Wise’s 2 1/2 hour cut that’s just waiting to get out.

      • Erica

        Of course the ending can change after the fact, as I said, everything can be tweaked. Beginnings can be re written as can endings. You still need a place to start and build towards.

        • HRV

          Add to that that the whole story can change and is often related to the number of people involved in the rewrite.

  • JasonTremblay

    Write a treatment where you can work almost everything out in 20 pages rather than 120. And it makes writing the SP a breeze because it’s all there. Or should be.

  • Chris Ryden

    Hmm must say I’d be interested to see Carson put this check list into action and break down critically acclaimed award winning scripts/ movies. The ones that stand the test of time for generations of future cinephiles beyond the summer blockbusters that live in the moment. Try these for example:

    In Bruges
    Chinatown
    Memories Of Murder
    Usual Suspects
    No Country For Old Men.
    A Prophet

    Or are you just talking run of the mill studio fodder, like Transformers and Ninja Turtles 9? Don’t get me wrong, I agree 100% that a story always needs an ending before you start telling it as you need something to build towards but IMHO the second most important tool is character. Asking yourself what the central question is, who your protagonist is and why this journey for them to this end point. Check lists aka (beat sheets) are studio friendly but you don’t wanna get bogged down in them or your work reads as mechanical.

    • Scott Crawford

      Well, he gave Three Billboards (written, like all McDonaghs, sans outline) one star. So that’s a breakdown of sorts.

      Sure, if YOUR next script is going to be The Usual Suspects (no outline) go ahead, don’t write an outline. Until then, better to write down a few ideas down and do a little thinking.

      Peace and love!

      • Chris Ryden

        I wasn’t saying don’t write an outline. I was saying don’t stick to a checklist as it makes your work formulaic. Try and keep it loose, whereas following the Snyder and Mckee beats like end of act 2 all is lost is not conducive to an original piece of work. When working for an Indy company and that’s where most younger writers start they tend to want something that stands out from the pack. For what it’s worth when you’re working on an OWA you’ll often start the process with a treatment. On the project I’m working on now they even wanted character work beforehand. The original script that got me my first agent had a beat sheet (not an outline, there’s a difference ) but it was character led and each beat followed choices made by the protagonist. When I work on project geared for a studio release it was broken down into four blocks with the obvious sound bites like in this article.

    • Ninjaneer

      I believe you just built yourself a nice straw man to knock down. Where did Carson layout a mechanical Blake Snyder style beat sheet formula that you had to follow?

      The point was that it usually makes it easier on yourself to figure out the end and some points in between before you start writing.

      How you figure out what and where those points are are up to you. He gave some suggestions that are typical for a lot of movies but never insisted that was the only way to lay it out.

      I agree that character is paramount when considering plot points. Plot informs character and character informs plot in a back and forth iterative cycle. Nowhere in the article is using character to figure out plot points prohibited or discouraged.

      Second, whats wrong with learning how to write something for a studio anyways. If you ever want to make a full living off of writing you’ll be doing studio assignments and need to know the full breadth of the craft.

      Do you think the writers of the movies you listed make their living outside the system? Do you think figuring out a few steps within the story ahead of time prevents you from writing great movies?

      IMO, the smug cinephile tone of your comment is not the type of attitude to get your far.

      • Chris Ryden

        Have replied to these responses saying that at no point did I say not to do an outline but that you should be flexible when doing a check list aka beat sheet. For some reason my post wasn’t put through. For the record there’s nothing wrong with wanting to work for studios and for most of OWA’s that I’ve had we started with a detailed treatment not a check list. And the majority of baby writers out there will find themselves working with indy’s on their way up. Most indy’s need to seperare themselves from the studio juggernauts and are looking for material that is fresh. Sticking to the Snyder beat sheet isn’t fresh. As I said in my post that didn’t pop up on here, the script that got me my first reputable agent and ultimately lead to my first commission started off with an ending, an opening scene and character that had questions worth answering through him. The beats that then followed this came about via the choices of my protagonist not some by the numbers check list.

        • Ninjaneer

          Congrats on the writing assignments, that’s awesome.

          I agree that having character inform your plot is important. My point was it seems you were arguing against something the article never espoused.

          Snyder’s beat sheet isn’t fresh which is prolly why C didn’t advocate following it or even mention anything like that.

          Right, you wouldn’t show your check point list to the studio, the list a very beginning step that would help inform the treatment you make.

          I like your points about writing but it seems like your arguments are not in response to what has been said, hence my straw man comment. You’re tearing down arguments that were not made.

          • Chris Ryden

            Obviously crossed wires on my part. What I was trying to say is that the check list that Carson used as his example to start a story from a blank page and thus provide the basic spine of a story/ movie works well for studio orientated material but if you were (for example) writing a script that floated more towards the independen sector of the industry then aside from the ending being in place, it’s a slippery slope popping in check points like “end of act 2, when your hero reaches his lowest point” which is in the article. IMHO it’s better to stay loose in that regard.

          • Ninjaneer

            I totes agree that you should always have your plot points be organic and true to the story core and characters.

            One of my biggest pet peeves that I see in a lot of movies is when the hero refuses that call only for the sake of a predefined outline when in reality that hero would jump at the chance to accept the call to adventure. It depends on the character. For some it makes sense to refuse the call and others it doesn’t so don’t force it.

    • Kirk Diggler

      In Bruges:

      1. Young Hitman Ray sent to Bruges, Belgium after accidentally killing a child during a botched hit.

      Character goal – GET OUT of Bruges because Ray grew up in Dublin. He loves Dublin. If he grew up on a farm, and was retarded, Bruges might impress him but he didn’t, so it doesn’t.

      2. Scenes of Ray and fellow hitman, the older Ken, being tourists in Bruges. This exacerbates the differences between the two as Ken enjoys ‘the fairytale fucking town’ of Bruges, with all the alcoves and fucking swans and the like, while Ray is quite miserable and only takes pleasure in angering overweight American tourists, telling them they can’t go up to the Belfry ‘because they’re a bunch of fucking elephants’.

      3. Ken is ordered by mob boss Harry to kill Ray because of the botched hit. Ken reluctantly agrees but then realizes Ray is suicidal and is going to kill himself, which Ken ends up preventing. Ray is left to ruminate “A great day this has turned out to be. I’m suicidal, me mate tries to kill me, me gun gets nicked and we’re still in fookin’ Bruges!” Ken convinces Ray to leave Bruges and start a new life elsewhere, sending him on a train out of town.

      Unfortunately, a Canadian tourist, who Ray had earlier assaulted in a restaurant after the Canadian (mistaken for being American) was offended when Ray’s date for the evening, Chloe, a coke dealer he had met on a movie set that starred a horse tranquilizer-taking dwarf, had blown smoke in the Canadian’s face, recognizes him on the train and has him arrested and brought back to Bruges where later Chloe is kind enough to bail him out of jail.

      4. Knowing that Ken has failed to kill Ray, mob boss Harry journeys to the fairytale fuckin’ town of Bruges to take care of business himself. Upon arriving, Ken insults Harry and his cunt fucking kids. Harry surmises that “if I had killed a little kid, accidentally or otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought twice. I’d killed myself on the fucking spot. On the fucking spot. I would’ve stuck the gun in me mouth. On the fucking spot!”

      Knowing there is no way to talk Harry out of killing Ray, Ken eventually sacrifices himself (to try and warn Ray of Harry’s presence In Bruges) by hurling his body off of the top of the belfry down to the canals and bridges and cobbled streets below, where all that beautiful fucking fairytale stuff is.

      5. Harry pursues Ray through the fairytale fucking streets of Bruges, trying to finish the job. It’s a wonderful chase through many alcoves (It’s kind of like nooks and crannies). Ray is suddenly desperate to live, having found a ray of light in Bruges in the drug dealing, tourist-robbing Chloe and eventually finds himself on the movie set from earlier where they are filming midgets.

      A wide-eyed Harry fires his gun at Ray, accidentally killing the actor/dwarf Jimmy, who happened to be dressed in wardrobe as a young schoolboy. Harry, a man of his word, believing he’s killed a child, puts a gun in his mouth and takes his own life. A badly wounded Ray is put on a stretcher and taken to an ambulance. He briefly wonders if it is better to be dead than to be stuck in Bruges. But with Chloe by his side and memories of their one date involving two instances of extreme violence, one instance of her hand on his cock and his finger up her thing, which lasted all too briefly, Ray decides he wants to live.

  • Midnight Luck

    I’ve liked some stuff Wes Anderson has done, but overall haven’t been a huge fan of his movies.
    That said,
    ISLE OF DOGS looks like it could be great.

    • Scott Crawford

      Oh, it’s LITERALLY….

      Bodes well for my disaster movie FIRE ON FIRE ISLAND.

    • Malibo Jackk

      Best thing Ed Norton has done in a decade.
      What’s the rate for an Ed Norton?

      • Scott Crawford

        Oooh, don’t call him Ed. He hates it. Same with Matt McConaghey. Doesn’t like it.

    • klmn

      Too cute for me, but I bet the kids will love it.

      • Midnight Luck

        I’ll concede, I probably like it even more since I’m a huge Dog lover.

        I don’t know though, it still looks to me like it could be a good story.

    • Erica

      I’ll see your dog movie and raise you a cute bunny!

    • HRV

      Now that looks goofy.

      • PQOTD

        Goofy but good!

  • Devil.Fear.Dark.TRIO.GO

    Use a sketch pad / notebook, enjoy the tranquility at home or at a coffee grind, jotting down ideas, notes — visualize the beginning, middle and the end, add details later, character names, flaws, quirks, etc.

    Life distractions, lack of time / motivation are subversive villains trying to derail your ambitions. I’m fighting such villain now.

    • Scott Crawford

      Write down… on cards… on computer… say a dozen scenes that you KNOW you’re going to write, you know – by imagination or logic – have to be there… write those scenes down… put them in order… then figure how to get from one scene to the next.

      Trust me, plotting made simple. You COULD have an outline in a day, not weeks. Or you could stop at any point and just WRITE, confident that you have ENOUGH story to keep going.

      And sod those villains. You stuck at it!

      • Devil.Fear.Dark.TRIO.GO

        Great comment, Scott. Based on my own past experience, once you input all your ideas down on the page, you’re often short by 30-60 pages. That’s when you really need to brainstorm for CONTENT or B story.

  • BMCHB

    Woah! Looks like two weeks of great articles to catch up on – this full-time (plus overtime) working is overrated!

    Huge congratulations to writer of Meat. Look forward to reading it this weekend. And C’s review of Schrader’s Close Encounters. I love any CEOT3K related articles – a film that probably shouldn’t have worked but did. Spielberg’s masterpiece as a visual director IMO.

    • Scott Crawford

      Brian! I thought you were d-d-dead!

      • BMCHB

        Call me Zom-B! ;-)

    • Erica

      • BMCHB

        I wish! :-)

  • Ninjaneer

    That’s a formulaic beat sheet from a guru, which wasn’t what C-sauce was talking about.

    You could call what the article was talking about a beat sheet but one that doesn’t have to follow any guru’s road map. It’s just an ordered list of scenes/sequences you come up with before you start writing so you know where you want to take the story.

    • Thaddeus Arnold

      Tomayto tomahto?

      That formulaic beat sheet seems to apply to the vast majority of motion pictures made the past century. It’s less something that a guru created and more an examination of stories going back to ancient times.

      • Ninjaneer

        I agree. I was just saying regardless of it’s merits, it wasn’t what C was talking about in today’s article.

  • klmn

    From C’s twitter: “Congratulations to the writer of “MEAT” who just signed with Good Fear Management. Nice job, Logan!”

    • Scott Crawford

      Great news!

    • http://dlambertson.wix.com/scripts Eldave1

      Awesome!

    • 2Lips1Rose

      Excellent. Haters gonna hate, but professionals are gonna see potential.

    • Poe_Serling

      And Carson just mentioned that the management company
      might be sending it out this weekend.

      Things can move fast in the Hollywood trenches… sometimes.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Congratulations, Logan Martin. You put yourself out there, and good things happened. #hope

    • HRV

      Congrats, but like many others, I still don’t see what was so special about it.

    • ThomasBrownen

      Good for Logan! Let’s hope he makes the most of it and runs with it.

    • Jarrean
    • Midnight Luck

      Just goes to show, what do I know?

      It was decent writing, but wasn’t a fully formed enough story, and it needed a number of rewrites. Needed a lot of dialogue and pacing work. Needed some work on the main story as well.

      Again, what do I know.

      I am happy for Logan (as I said in my review on Monday), anyone who breaks in deserves a huge !KUDOS!!

      • Kirk Diggler

        I imagine they signed him based off the totality of his work rather than just “Meat” alone….. I’m guessing.

        • Midnight Luck

          true. It would be interesting to see what other work Logan has done.

  • Jaco

    Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty) says: “Storytelling comes naturally to humans, but since we live in an unnatural world, we sometimes need a little help doing what we’d naturally do.”

    Help indeed. There’s a whole cottage industry built around telling newb screenwriters what exactly that “help” looks like: Harmon’s got his Story Circle . . . there’s Save the Cat . . . Robert McKee . . . Scriptshadow . . . Joseph Campbell . . . . Syd Field . . . John Truby . . . Sequences . . . Triangles . . . .Go Into the Story . . . etc., etc., etc.

    Are there common threads among many of the theories that story gurus propagate? Absolutely. It’s important to know these. Read the books. Read scripts. See movies.

    However, don’t delude yourself. There isn’t one way . . . one easy path . . . find what works for you.

    Takes time, takes effort.

    As the bottle says: Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

    • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

      Buddy, try to play along. The crux of today’s post is plot construction and how to make one out of nothing. THAT’S the initial problem that Carson laid out in his post. How do you go from a few good ideas to something that fills the complete arc of a movie story.

      What were trying to do here is find tricks that work to help Carson’s writer/director friend out. This is YOUR chance to help out and say what your process is. Siting a bunch of books isn’t much of a help its more of a cop-out, imo.

      • Jaco

        Find tricks?

        Check the intersection at 4th and Peterson.

        Wait, what? Oh, not that kind of tricks?

        Dangnabbit!

        Guess I’ll go back and re-read the article. I didn’t know we were supposed to be talking about how to put on a shitstickfucking magic show. Thanks, Professor Poindexter.

        • http://insideechenrysbrain.typepad.com/inside_the_brain_of_ec_he/ E.C. Henry

          You’re welcome. Just trying to keep you on point.

  • Poe_Serling

    HOW TO START A LIVELY DEBATE AROUND HERE…

    Just bring up the ? whether to outline (the check point method, index
    cards, or whatever you want to call it) or not.

    With the creative process, I think there’s more than one way to reach
    your final destination (a finished script).

    Having some kind of outline is probably quickest route to get from point
    A to B. Your following the signposts, paying close attention to each mile
    marker, and so forth.

    If you’re a checklist person, this might be the way to go.

    At the other end of the scriptwriting highway…

    A leisurely Sunday drive to your final stop has its share of advantages
    too. Sometimes going with the flow and venturing off the main road
    can open up some unique opportunities to explore different angles
    for the plot, character motivations, settings, and other story elements.

    And it just seems a bit more freeing.

    Perhaps the best plan of action is found somewhere between the two
    avenues.

    Whatever works best for you, I’d say go for it.

    ;-)

    • Jaco

      Jinx! Buy me a coke. (Well, not really – I beat you by 4 minutes with the same advice).

  • Kirk Diggler

    OT: Anyone catch ‘Ingrid Goes West’? I thought it was pretty good. Aubrey Plaza plays this Instagram stalker of Elizabeth Olson’s character. She captures the manic desperation of those people on the fringes of life who want to belong but don’t know how.

    Good supporting performances from O’Shea Jackson Jr and Wyatt Russel (why is’t he a bigger star?) Worth checking out and a better way to spend your cinema dollars than ‘mother!’

    • Ninjaneer

      I have a MoviePass card (now only $10/month) so I can see as many movies as I want each month for no extra cost. I probably wouldn’t have payed $11 to see Ingrid Goes West but it was free so why not.

      The trailer (from what I remembered) made it look like a black comedy but it was not funny at all. Ingrid Goes West was one of the most uncomfortably awkward movies I’ve seen in a long time.

      It was very well made and acted and I did enjoy it in a weird way but I was expecting something that was also comedic but in the end was depressing from beginning to end.

      I am glad I saw it though.

      • Kirk Diggler

        “one of the most uncomfortably awkward movies”

        If it made you feel something than it succeeded in some way.

    • Midnight Luck

      I actually saw it when it first came out, and yeah, found it to be much better than I thought it’d be.
      I enjoyed the movie, it had a few odd “indie” kind of issues that didn’t quite work, but they were minor.
      I have to agree, O’Shea Jackson Jr. was really good in it.

      It was one of the better films so far when it comes to tackling online and internet creepiness.
      I don’t know if it exactly captured the true feeling of someone who doesn’t ever quite belong or doesn’t know how to ft in, but it still did a fairly good job of making it believable, if still not quite realistic.

      Either way, still an enjoyable good flick.

    • Avatar

      Unfortunately, Ingrid Goes West plays in such a limited number of venues and disappeared like in less than a week or two. I had to travel just to see this movie. The audience I saw it with was laughing really hard for most of the movie. I thought all the jokes about living in L.A. were hilarious. But, if you’re not from here and haven’t seen the eccentric behavior of L.A. hipsters, I guess it wouldn’t be as funny for those who do not have that experience. What did you think of the ending? I thought it went dark….and the goodwill of the audience was jolted a bit. They were laughing until it went super dark. I am not sure it really recovered. Yeah, the film wasn’t exactly light, but there was this wink wink quality to it, until it went even darker. It’s not as jolting as something like the Beaver, which made me hate the Beaver.. Overall, I really liked the movie.

      • Kirk Diggler

        “What did you think of the ending? I thought it went dark….and the goodwill of the audience was jolted a bit.”

        I agree. I was hoping it wouldn’t veer too far into “Single White Female” territory that it had managed to avoid for the first 2/3rds of the film. I think I could have done without the kidnapping subplot and found some other way to have her lies unravel.

        The last moment of the film was simultaneously heart-warming (the goodwill of strangers exhibited toward Plaza’s character) and at the same moment tragic that Plaza’s character seems willing to fall into the same trap which caused her problems in the first place, depending how you interpret her look of happiness at all the Instagram attention she gets.

        I will say this about introducing an agitator (something Carson has talked about a lot). Here the character of Nicky (Billy Magnussen) causes problems for Aubrey’s Plaza’s character (which is good from a dramatic perspective) but also causes screenplay problems because he is the cause of the dark turn the film takes that you mention. The tone went from gently mocking LA hipsters and the fake and empty social media bullshit (emphasized by Elizabeth Olson’s character) to something much more sad and malignant.

        I think the brother character belongs in the script I’m just not sure what I would have done different to keep the tone the same throughout.

        • Avatar

          Yeah, I feel the same way as you. I would have much preferred that the Aubrey Plaza character somehow learn and make it work. Also, the ending suddenly made the Elizabeth Olson and her boyfriend character really mean….which I felt like they were pretty decent people (just because you’re vapid and care about what other people think does not make you into the super mean characters that suddenly were). I think the writer just wrote himself into a corner and put his satire message over the emotional arc of his characters. Aubrey Plaza’s pathetic nature was what made her sympathetic despite doing some stalkerish stuff…. but, that was broken by the kidnap plot… And the O’shea character was this lovable delusional writer character, but when he became involved, it just made him look like a bad person or at least led down the wrong path by Aubrey Plaza’s character. It’s as if the writer wanted that final shot of Aubrey Plaza being an internet star, and put that over keeping the audience on her side. The L.A. hispter stuff was hilarious though. Maybe, it’s because I’ve lived here and have seen that craziness first hand.

          • Kirk Diggler

            “And the O’shea character was this lovable delusional writer character, but when he became involved, it just made him look like a bad person or at least led down the wrong path by Aubrey Plaza’s character.”

            Yes, good point. The more I think about it the more I love his character, probably because he reminds me of every wannabe writer in LA who humble brags about what he’s working on but is basically a good guy who has big dreams.

            But back to what you said about Elizabeth Olson and her husband turning mean…. I will disagree here. I felt their anger was justified. They reacted just as anyone would if they found out their new ‘friend’ kidnapped and meant to do harm to a family member (prick that he was). Even if we have sympathy toward Plaza (a credit to her performance), she was still a complete nutter and her behavior was far far from what’s considered normal. She and her husband disowning Plaza was the only thing that made sense and it wasn’t mean, if anything it was self-preservation.

          • Avatar

            I think the writer in crafting the O’Shea character did so many things that made him likable –like being pretty forgiving about what happened to his truck. And that scene where he handed his business card with screenwriter had me in stitches.

            I know what you’re saying….but emotionally, that’s just how I felt about it. I had come to really like their characters—they seem like very nice hipster people (albeit a little vapid and caring too much about the L.A. image). Which is why I didn’t like seeing them go all mean girl on her at the end—that was the last image we had of them and no satisfying resolution. And, this is like you said because these characters were cornered into acting like that because of the kidnap subplot. If her brother hadn’t been kidnapped, we might have had a more satisfying resolution. She’s already an isolated person that can’t connect with people in a long term way, so to see her isolated once again by two normally nice people was just disappointing to me.

            The writer did craft characters that got me emotionally involved. While I didn’t really like the turn it took towards the very end, it had me thinking about them after I left the theater.

  • Kane

    This article got me thinking.

    I have found it so much easier to finish what I start after taking a very simplistic approach to outlining. I call it the “Man At The Bar Method”. You know how that one guy at the bar tells a story and even strangers lean in because he is such a good story teller. Now mind you, it’s just a little mental trick I use for 3 act structures but that is all I right because I enjoy writing popcorn friendly yarns.

    The Man in the bar uses tricks to reel you in like irony and hidden sales pitches during his yarn but I’ll get into that one day when I write my book after I’m rich and famous. For now, I’ll focus on the outline and the 3 stories he always tells. Just three simple stories.

    The first story the Man tells… “You know or heard about (insert protagonist)? Well he/she got fed up or trapped by X and decided they were going to go out and do something about it. I know how the guy feels because we all would want to do that in the same situation but we feel for the guy because they are doomed because they don’t have (insert missing ingredient here).

    The second story comes the next day when everyone asks what happened to that guy. The next story he tells… “That crazy SOB went off and trained, used their smarts, teamed up with soandso and don’t you know they almost pulled it off…” Just when everyone gets whipped into a frenzy he continues “But X wasn’t having it. X cleaned their clock. This is why you do not Fuck with X. X gon’ give to ya. I sympathize with the effort and I’m saddened like you all by the defeat. I wish I could tell you it didn’t go that way but maybe they were a fool for not realizing how badly X had the deck stacked against them especially sense they don’t have the missing ingredient.”

    Next night when no one expects more story. The Man comes back and yells… “You will never believe what happened. That guy that was practically destroyed by X, well they got up off their duff and used the very thing none of us thought they had, the missing ingredient to come back and win or at least put up a good fight. Even if they lost, even X had to acknowledge that they were more than X imagined. “

    Everyone leaves the bar that third night feeling great or maybe a little crushed but most importantly they leave wanting to tell anyone who will listen all three stories because together they are either a triumphant or a cautionary tale.

    Three short stories. Those should be easy enough to bang out a first draft.

    Story One: In 20-30 pages tell a story about a guy that sets off to do this crazy thing. At the end, we should have reasons to envy or fear for the guy taking on the quest.

    Story Two: In 30-40 pages tell the story of how the guy prepared himself for this crazy thing but found out he was woefully unprepared. When done, we should feel sadness for him or rage against the system that is unfairly stacked against him and his goal.

    Story Three: In 20-30 pages tell us about that same guy that was down and out made a miraculous comeback. They succeeded or at least came respectably close to succeeding but ultimately failed. When done we should cheer for him or empathize with him as a cautionary tale.

    Don’t outline a script first. Outline 3 simple connected short stories about the same person. A person decided to do this thing we all wish or fear doing ourselves. How that same person gave it a pretty good shot, pulled of some special things, but ultimately failed because life isn’t fair. But after they lost everything they managed to surprise everyone and although they didn’t accomplish what they started they got something better or at least meaningful.

    If you can’t imagine the details of any 1 of the 3 stories being enticing enough to make strangers lean in to hear more at a random bar, do not pass go.

  • Levres de Sang

    Today’s timely article set me thinking about the interconnectedness of endings, goals and those dreaded loglines.

    Maybe you’ll find the protag’s goal is not substantial enough to warrant a satisfying end… and if the ending feels unclear then I’d wager the logline isn’t there yet either.

    Loglines get a bad press, but in the process of evaluating potential projects I’m finding they play a necessary and organic role.

    Wow! I guess it all comes back to loglines… :/

    • Poe_Serling

      Lev’s Full Circle Theory of Effective Screenwriting.

      ;-)

    • Erica

      More and more I’ve been writing rough loglines of ideas I get first now before writing a script. I like the feeling it gives me in trying to come up with a logline first. It may change during the writing process but I think the core idea will be the same.

      It’s also a great way to gauge the project if your able to pitch the logline to someone and see what their reaction is.

  • BMCHB

    There’s an old Irish anecdote/apocryphal story that I may have finally understood as a result of this article…

    A young American couple are driving around the beautiful ring of Kerry.

    They stop to ask a simple, local farmer for directions to a certain place.

    “Hey Mister Farmer, how do we get to [there]?

    “Well, the first thing I’ll have to tell you, and I’ll be honest with you, if I was going there, I wouldn’t be starting from here”.

    • filmklassik

      Which is just a Gaelic version of the crusty old New Englander on his front porch telling the lost stranger who’s pulled up to ask directions “Cobble Creek? Ya can’t get they-uh from hee-uh.”

      • brenkilco

        I also like the variation where the stranger comes to a fork in the road. Sign to the right says Cobble Creek. Sign to the left says Cobble Creek. Does it matter which way I go the stranger asks the local standing in the notch.
        “Not to me it don’t.”

        • filmklassik

          Never heard that one, but I dig it!

        • filmklassik

          I just looked up Gaelic and saw that it refers to Scotland, not Ireland. A careless mistake on my part which, knowing your IQ, you undoubtedly caught, but were too polite to say anything.

          • brenkilco

            Right, sure, I knew that. Course I did. And not only did I know that I was actually one of the three people on earth who didn’t google dotard this week.

  • Midnight Luck

    So, earlier this week I saw, in the order I saw them

    1. MOTHER!
    2. AMERICAN ASSASSIN
    3. IT
    4. WIND RIVER

    here’s the order I’d put them in for how I liked them

    1. WIND RIVER
    2. IT
    3. TIE – MOTHER! and AMERICAN ASSASSIN (for entirely different, less than stellar reasons)

    Wow, what to say. Such a bizarre group of movies to see in such a short period of time.

    AMERICAN ASSASSIN – was absolutely the most “by the numbers” of them all. Just absolutely uninspired and typical “special ops, highly trained, better than anyone, nothing he cannot do” ego fest of americana I’ve seen in a while. Nothing interesting or new in any way, and I am sure it’ll disappear from my brain in a few days.

    MOTHER! – I do agree with many of the reviews out there that this felt like such a Directorial self flagellation. It struggled to maintain a story that was both “watchable” while being as “intellectual” as it wanted to be. I don’t know if Aronofsky was in love with his own ideas and thought he was being profound, or was on a quest to see if he could “out think” or make it more cerebral than anyone could handle or maintain interest in. He truly seemed to be trying to dare the audience to give up on the film, or to just leave the theater. This also happened when I went to see A GHOST STORY, which actually of the 5 of us I believe were in there, by the last half hour, I was the only one left watching.
    Why exactly do these Directors want to do this?
    I have no idea.
    You can make your film cerebral and “profound” while still keeping them incredibly entertaining and audience friendly.
    I do have to say, nobody left in the MOTHER! theater, though. I think everybody just kept hoping for something PROFOUND! to make it all come together and make sense.
    And yes, he did tie it all together in a neat bow at the end, but for the most part everything before the ending didn’t exactly make sense, it was another movie trying to be “smarter than everyone else”, or something.
    I’m sure plenty of people will argue with my assessment of it, but in the end, it just wasn’t that much fun, and honestly wasn’t even that interesting.

    IT – I do have to say, IT was a lot better and a lot more fun than I expected it to be. That was a nice surprise, because I was all prepared for it to be just middle of the road mediocre to the point of being unbearably boring.
    But it wasn’t. It kept the fun, while being vaguely nostalgic, which kept it interesting.
    It didn’t break any new ground, felt incredibly “Producer” and “audience” friendly. By which I just mean, it didn’t take a lot of chances. Where it kind of pushed the line was with two things, first, by having every single pre-teen boy constantly talking about sex with mom’s and penis references, and sex and masturbation, etc. I mean honestly, the big takeaway from the film is that all pre-teen boys ever talk about is “banging” someone and masturbation or having sex with everyone and everything.
    Seemed a bit over the top. But, in the end didn’t negatively affect the enjoyment of the film at all for me. Just seemed odd it was so rife with all the sex talk.
    And the second “pushing boundaries”, was just that, if their target was really getting kids or teens to watch the movie (which it really felt gear toward), it has a ton of violent and gory imagery.
    I don’t mind that, but the story itself just felt so aimed at the pre-teenage crowd, it might’ve been a bit strong.
    But maybe not. Maybe even all the kids and pre-teens are numb to that kind of stuff anymore with all the video games being tremendously violent and gory anymore.

    Anyhow, I found IT to be very enjoyable and had a lot of fun, while also leaving feeling like it was quite safe and almost a bit generic.

    WIND RIVER – Wow, seriously, this was phenomenally well done. INTENSE, and just a on-the-edge-of-your-seat film. It was violent and creepy, and kept the pressure on, while still taking enough time for the film (and audience) to breathe.
    I’ve never been much of a fan of either Jeremy Renner or Elizabeth Olsen, he’s fine as an actor overall, and she does an okay job in the things I’ve seen her in, but that said, this film was so well done that their soft acting abilities didn’t affect it at all. The film was so good that it elevated their acting across the board.
    Truly, great film, that kept me involved and IN IT, from beginning to end.
    Good mystery, and well told.

    So, my recommendation if anyone is looking to see something, would be check out WIND RIVER if it is playing in your area, and if not, give IT a look, if you haven’t already.

    WIND RIVER – worth full price first run admission
    IT – Depending on viewer, worth full price or early bird price first run admission
    MOTHER! – wait for video
    AMERICAN ASSASSIN – easily just wait for some bored Sunday viewing when you happen across it on Television.

    • Kirk Diggler

      Agree about Wind River, one of my favorites so far this year. I’ve never been been a big Renner or Olson fan but I thought they were extremely well cast and a credit to the film. And I love what they did with the Jon Bernthal character both from a writing and casting standpoint. It’s a perfect example of playing against audience expectations.

      Regarding the sex talk in “It” from the boy characters, I can tell you it depends on one’s particular upbringing. If you were raised in Utah by Mormons and your peer group was other Mormon boys, maybe there wasn’t a lot of that sort of thing. Speaking for myself, I grew up in the N.J. suburbs with mostly Irish, Italian, and Jewish kids, and my experience mirrors the kind of talk you see in ‘It’, which is why it probably made me laugh so much. In fact, it far exceeded anything represented in that film to the point it might make your earballs bleed so i’ll spare you the details.

      Regarding America Assassin, I did try to steer you clear of that film. ;-)

      • Midnight Luck

        This is going to sound idiotic (and thank you for trying to steer me clear of American Assassin), but for some reason I confused A.Assassin with the Tom Cruise movie AMERICAN MADE.
        Seriously.
        I cannot even believe it.
        So when you told me that your friend said he wasn’t impressed because he had seen it all before, I still thought “well, I liked the trailer, and I loved the movie BLOW, so I think I’ll still give it a try”.
        And what do you know, it WASN’T the right movie!
        Ugh, talk about feeling like an idiot.
        Normally I’m very in tune with the movies out every single day of the year, but this time, fucked it up, royally.

        I blame all these damn movies with AMERICA in the TITLE.

        People seem to be willing to go to anything if it just puts the word America in there.

        So, yeah, I should’ve listened to you, but, now I got my quota of really average, lame by the numbers movies in for the year.

        I really liked Bernthal’s character in it (i don’t have anything to reference him in, I’ve seen him in small parts in other movies, but I don’t really know him, so don’t have anything to compare or to “play against type” with him), and it was great he was only in it for a few minutes, but they were some of the strongest minutes of the whole film.

        Also, when it comes to IT and the sex talk language, it isn’t anything that bothers me, or that I have a problem with, it was just surprising how every other sentence one of the kids would say some really pointed sexual remark or reference.

        P.S. I think the Mormon’s (much like devout Christians) might actually act and speak even more crass and sexual, as a side effect of being repressed :)

        • Justin

          That Bernthal scene broke my heart, seriously…

    • Avatar

      Yeah, I sat through Mother and kept giving it the benefit of the doubt because of Aronofsky and Lawrence….but, it felt unrelenting. I could have sworn Jennifer Lawrence said 20 times “Why are you doing this?” “Get out.” And I am pretty sure the audience was wondering the same thing….the characters just don’t behave like any normal person in real life. When the movie was over, I saw the audience had this stunned reaction–overheard one woman say that was the weirdest movie ever…. and many others having a bewildered look. I do feel like this is one of those instances where a filmmaker’s living in his bubble, echo chamber…. I do want deep movies and ones that make me think, but it felt like this movie was trying too hard. And that baby scene as a metaphor was just too over the top–like, we get it–writer as the creator being messy…. sometimes an artist forgets that one of their big roles is to evoke emotion in their audience. This one pretty much left the audience with a huh? No one left my theater too….but, I think it was out of respect to Aronofsky….everyone was probably hoping for some kind of Sixth Sense ending that totally redeems the movie.

      American Assasin–this is the type of movie I secretly hate. I am guessing it’s going to have the same recycled lines and show of special ops procedure. I will probably eventually watch it because of my policy of watching any movie that moves….but, I don’t have to like it.

      I presume you mean Home Again? That movie does get better. I thought it was dreadful in the first 15 minutes. But, I think you should suffer through it just to see why some people respond to it. My theater had a bunch of women from 30s to 50s….and they were really into it. This had a Nancy Meyers feel and the movie seem to have them in the palm of it’s hand. I did like the inside Hollywood meetings with producer (those scenes made me laugh)… but, I was mostly watching to see why these Meyers film (I think it’s written and directed by her sister) has an appeal to a particular audience—I think it’s probably wish fulfillment. It being unrealistic is probably what gets them.

      It – I had the same reaction to the kids. Their profane sex jokes was a little jarring and felt unrealistic–it felt like the screenwriter was trying to crowbar it in there than it being a real life situation. I have to admit I found the main 4 kids super annoying. They are so unlikable. I liked the chubby kid, the red headed girl that cut her hair and that kid that works on a farm. What separated this film was the villain. That was such a cool visceral villain. Penny Wise is one of the more creepier villains I’ve seen. I see so many scary movies that I am generally not scared by the usual jump scares….but just one look at that clown—or maybe, I have a predisposition to being creeped out by clowns.

      Wind River–I felt like the last 30 minutes really took it to another notch. That scene that explains what happened was so incredibly intense that it was a masterclass on how to ratchet up conflict. I really felt for the victim. And the final action scene was jolting—it felt like what would happen in real life. In some lesser hands, it would have come off the typical action that doesn’t mean anything.

      Have you seen any other movies recently? Tulip Fever, Birth of the dragon, Ingrid Goes west..?

      • Midnight Luck

        I referenced Ingrid Goes West below in Kirk Diggler’s question about it.

        Yes I saw it a number of weeks back.

        I’ve also seen recently, like in the last month to month and a half –> THE DARK TOWER, THE GLASS CASTLE, DETROIT (one of the other best movies I’ve seen this year), ATOMIC BLONDE, THE BIG SICK, BABY DRIVER, BEATRIZ AT DINNER, A GHOST STORY, IT COMES AT NIGHT, and probably a bunch more I cannot remember at the moment.

        I really wanted to see PATTI CAKE$, but have been staying for the last month off the grid in the middle of nowhere, so the closest town isn’t some metropolis and doesn’t have movies like that, sadly.

        Yeah, the end of WIND RIVER really was the absolute best. Ratcheted up the intensity to level 11, and then DELIVERED big time!

        Thanks for correcting me HOME AGAIN, what did I call it? oh Almost Home, well sounds about the same, vague, not memorable, nothing name of a title.

        And I do feel that everything in MOTHER! was seriously approached too heavy handed. Too: “I’m going to shove a million, unrelenting, over the top metaphors down your throat whether you like it or not!”, while also secretly feeling like he (aronofsky) would be the only one who “got” it, and getting deep pleasure out of that fact.

        Maybe I’m being too harsh on him.

        Honestly, I didn’t hate MOTHER! like many did, but it would’ve been better with more depth, more nuance, more realism in parts, and something good, even the tiniest thing that was sweet or kind, somewhere in it.

        • Avatar

          I hated It comes at night–just thought the lead character was despicable. Baby Driver’s probably my favorite so far. Detroit was super intense, which I thought was good but I felt like kind of wired after watching it.. What did you think of Atomic Blonde?

          Let’s face it, if it wasn’t Darren Aronofsky, we probably wouldn’t hold back on what we think of the movie. In my mind, I am still pulling my punches thinking maybe there was something I missed. The strange thing is I kept thinking the acting is very strong, but I don’t like this movie. There are movies that are unrelenting like Split, but in that Shyamalan regulates that with some humor and a more ebb and flow so that you aren’t feeling strung up the entire time–one of the reasons I hate Eli Roth movies because Eli Roth only works in one speed.

          One of the unique features of Wind River is it’s setting. It felt new and I was as interested in seeing this setting that I don’t normally get to see…and that world felt very realistically violent. Like it’s the type of setting where this kind of thing would happen routinely.

          The problem is most movies are in a theater for one or two weeks so you end up missing on many, rushing to see your 5th or 6th choice before it disappears or having to travel to some dump theater with bad parking that you’d rather not go to.

    • Jaco

      Count me as a big fan of WIND RIVER. Was also worried about the casting going in, but it definitely worked for me. Sheridan’s scripts are a treat to read.

      Really looking forward to his series YELLOWSTONE – beautifully written with great characters. Dude knows his locale – that’s for sure.

    • Justin

      So glad you liked Wind River. I wasn’t expecting to like it much, but it turned out to be one of the highlights of my year. I was emotionally invested into it — more so than most other films. The first Act was a little “meh” for me, but it picked up quickly and was fucking amazing.

      I never liked Jeremy Renner’s acting much (good actor though), but he was phenomenal in this.

      • Avatar

        Wind River must be doing something right…while other movies have disappeared from the theaters, Wind River is still around. I had watched it right away thinking it would disappear that week, but turns out I had a month, lol.

    • Adam McCulloch

      It always amuses me when anyone attempts to set an everyman story in New York. If you can get actors and a crew in an apartment it’s already way too big for depicting regular peeps.

  • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

    That reminds of an anecdote I heard (can’t remember the writer but I want to say it was Brian Helgeland). He labored over an outline for months, only once he started writing, he quickly deviated from the outline and put the characters in an entirely different movie.

    • Scott Crawford

      So that’s… ONE example.

      Actually, Barbara Taylor-Bradford told fellow Yorkshireperson Alan Titchmarsh when he was about to write his first novel that whatever he wrote in his outline, the story will change when the characters start to come to life.

      However… that’s a far cry from not writing an outline at all.

      • Andy M (formerly andyjaxfl)

        Agreed. The point of the anecdote was that the an outline helps crack the characters and chunks of the story. It keeps your fingers tapping on keys instead of tapping on the desk. You have direction–as Carson mentioned, a plot point to write towards.

  • Poe_Serling

    As the King tale tries to make it three in a row at the top of the box office
    heap this weekend (most analysts are predicting it will fall short)…

    Here’s an amusing quote from author regarding his overall taste in
    films:

    “I’m one of these people where the worst movie I ever saw, I thought
    it was … great.”

    The film he’s referring to:

    Robot Monster

    Supposedly it also the same flick that got Spielberg interested in
    filmmaking.

    • brenkilco

      Hey, could you take a diving helmet and half a gorilla suit and make something iconic? Didn’t think so.

      • klmn

        That was more like 90% of a gorilla suit.

    • klmn

      All the best movies feature gorillas. Diving helmet optional.

  • Apex

    Man, I told you you’d get a manager. Good job. Who at Good Fear signed you?

    Let us know how things turn out.

  • Joe Marino

    Congrats, Logan! Do you have a Twitter account?

    • Logan Martin

      I do, but I basically just use it to follow others. I might start tweeting in the future, though.

      @obamasaywhtitdo