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Bradley Cooper;Emma Stone

Cameron Crowe’s latest? Not connected.

So the other day I was reading a script and while it wasn’t bad, it was missing something. It took me a good 60 pages to figure out what it was, but when I did, I realized how much better the script could be IF the writer became aware of the problem. So what was missing?

CONNECTIVE TISSUE

Connective tissue is the way the individual storylines and individual characters in your script link up. This is where you show your mettle as a writer. You want to connect and interweave as many story threads as you can so that everything works together. Connective tissue is the difference between having tortillas, lettuce, cheese, and beef, and having a taco.

To use a simple example, let’s say your story takes place at a barbershop. Like in most movies, you’ll probably have a love story. That gives us two story threads. The stuff that happens at the barbershop and the stuff that happens in the love story.

Well, wouldn’t it better (and easier) if you could connect these two threads together? Why not make the love interest work at the barbershop with our main character? Or make her the daughter of our hero’s boss? Or make her a businesswoman who’s trying to buy the barbershop?

Why would these connections make the script better? Well, when you connect story threads, then something you do in one thread will AFFECT the other thread, sending ripples through the entire story as opposed to just one part of it.

Let’s say, for example, that the love interest is accused of stealing from the register and gets fired from the barbershop. Furious for being accused of something she (supposedly) didn’t do, she expects our Hero to leave with her. But he doesn’t want to leave because it’s a good job and he likes working here. It’s a sticky situation without an easy solution.

Contrast that with an unconnected storyline, where the love interest works at, say, Macy’s. If she gets fired there, it doesn’t affect our hero in nearly as personal of a way. He consoles her and they move on. The connected situation clearly gives you more drama.

The amateur script I mentioned at the beginning was about a kid who plays for his college basketball team. Because he’s broke, he begrudgingly takes a job managing the books for his criminal father, who’s a local drug kingpin.

The script follows these storylines separately. Over in one lane we have Hero leading his team up the standings. And in the other, Hero struggles through an awkward relationship with his father, whose respect he’s never earned. The two storylines don’t cross over at all. There was NO CONNECTIVE TISSUE.

So I suggested to the writer, instead of the father being a drug kingpin, why can’t he be more of a mobster, with his main business being gambling? That way, he can start betting on his son’s games, eventually asking him to shave points to help him cover the spread. All of a sudden, these totally separate storylines become very connected, offering the writer a story with way more dramatic potential.

The most obvious example of connective tissue is probably Back to the Future. Now you have to take a step back (go back in time, one might say) to imagine this story before it was fully-formed.

1955

On one side of the story, you have this kid who gets stuck in the past and must find a way back to the future. That’s a pretty fun idea, but by itself it’s B-movie material. On the other side of the story, you have Marty’s relationship with his quirky parents, who have sort of given up on life.

The smart writer says, “How can I connect these two storylines so they affect one another?” Well, since Marty’s parents met in this town, what if he’s sent back to the year they met? And what if Marty accidentally meets his mom before his dad does, and she falls in love with Marty instead of him? Now the time travel storyline is directly linked to the parents’ storyline. By utilizing connective tissue, this went from a decent movie idea to one of the best ideas in the history of cinema.

We actually see the reverse of this in Cameron Crowe’s upcoming film, Aloha. The consensus for everyone who’s seen the movie is that it’s incomprehensible (including from the studio head herself, as the Sony leaked e-mails revealed). I remember reading that script and thinking the same thing. And the reason was obvious. There was no connective tissue between any of the storylines.

I specifically remember there was a story about needing to sacrifice something into a volcano as well as a story about launching a satellite. You couldn’t get two more unrelated threads. And when things don’t connect, the audience loses interest, which I’m positive is the reason this film is getting hammered.

So how do you find these connections? Well, first of all, you have to be looking for them. Literally, every story thread in your script, you need to say, “How can I connect that thread with that one?” Sometimes they won’t connect. And that’s fine. But often, you’ll find that just by asking the question, new story opportunities will present themselves.

Most of the time, you’ll find your connections in rewrites. In fact, this should be one of your MAIN GOALS DURING YOUR FIRST FEW REWRITES. That first draft is always the thinnest. Only a few things connect. Reading through a finished draft will help you see things from a bird’s eye view, allowing you to better spot puzzle pieces to connect.

I should note that there is such a thing as OVER-CONNECTING. This is when Joe’s girlfriend is also his father’s step-daughter who happens to own the bike shop that Joe’s best friend works at and the bank Joe is planning to rob is being taken over by his father, etc., etc.

The thing is, I rarely see this. And I don’t think you should worry about it. You can always dial the connections back if people complain. I see way more missed connections than I do over-connections.

You actually know when you’ve got a really inter-connected script when making one change affects MANY OTHER THINGS. If you can just pop a character or a scene or a plot thread out of your script and not have to change anything, then you didn’t do a good job connecting your threads.

And that’s pretty much the gist of it. It’s a simple concept to wrap your head around and it’s one of the more powerful tools in screenwriting. A script where all the story threads are linked together is probably a damn good script.

  • Orange Pop

    Amazing Post! The Back To The Future reference is perfect for this.

  • Murphy

    Weird timing for this Carson. My 250 entry is still in my head and behind schedule due to my inability to make the ideas I have connect. I have just driven home from work with only one thought, how can I connect my protagonist more to the plot device that forms the inciting incident? I am worried that everything I can think of is too much a coincidence.

    Question, while this is not my movie, it serves as a decent example…

    What if someone who robs mail delivery trucks for a living finds a parcel containing a million dollars but then notices it is addressed to himself?

    I mean the chances of finding money, especially so much are so slim to begin with. Does throwing in a mystery like his address on the package but him not having a clue why he is being sent it sound like a stretch too far??

    Would love to hear feedback on this.

    Cheers

    • pmlove

      It raises the question of why have him being someone who robs mail trucks? He’s going to receive the money anyway, so it doesn’t appear to add anything from what you’ve said above. Or rather, there’s no inherent dilemma about stealing money from yourself.

      The mystery still works (in fact, I think it makes it more likely that he would find the package of money if it’s uber-mysterious).

      Just my thoughts.

      • S.C.

        If someone sent me a million dollars in the post, I would freak out. I would assume I was being set up, used as a cash mule, or whatever. I’d call the police.

        The mail robber can’t call the police, nor can he just get rid of the money (the money might be enough that he doesn’t have to rob mail trucks again – perhaps he wants to stop).

        The example is an ODD dilemma – not one we’re all likely to face! – but it has shades of Hitchcock or THE SILENT PARTNER about it:

        • pmlove

          No but he could put it back, wait to receive it and then call the police.

          I suppose he could steal it and then legitimately claim he never received it. I take it back, that could be interesting.

          • S.C.

            Once he’s robbed the mail truck, he couldn’t leave the package there, the police would find it. And he wouldn’t be able to tell the package contained money until he took it home and opened it.

            I think the story still works, as a mystery. Getting quite into this story!

        • Murphy

          Thanks very much. I am not aware of that movie and I am certainly going to check it out. I am hoping there is some inspiration there, cheers.

      • Murphy

        And good thoughts. Thanks. The reason he robs mail trucks (not actually the story here but it is a good analogy) is because that is the whole concept of the story, and the theme – which is very strong in the script I intend to write.

        I am actually trying to turn this concept into a story, when I originally conceived the idea it was a ransom payment he intercepted and this sets things up for him being forced to rescue the victim man on fire style etc..

        I still might stick with this but am searching for a personal angle which is why I was trying to make a connection and this led me to find another reason for the money existing.

    • S.C.

      It might be more helpful to you if you were to tell us the idea that you’re stuck on; if you don’t want to air “dirty laundry” in public, then email me personally (mr.scottcrawford @ hotmail) or any other person whose opinion you respect more and is willing to communicate in private. The only reason I’m butting in is that I’m concerned about you missing the 250 deadline.

      Your example I thinks works quite well. A guy who robs mail delivery trucks is an exciting, visual idea. We could open the story with him robbing a truck, then show what his life is like, then – BOOM! – the bulky package addressed to himself. A mystery – is someone trying to set him up? Tie it to a character trait. He’s paranoid – like me! – assumes the worst. He’s a gambler. He gambles away all the money and then the owner of the cash – a money launderer – comes after him.

      On coincidence, compare Die Hard to many Die Hard clones. What connects the events in Die Hard – McClane visiting his wife, Gruber robbing the safe – is CHRISTMAS. It makes sense that an off-duty copy would visit his wife at Christmas and it makes sense that terrorists would strike at Christmas when security would be slack.

      1). Tie plot to character trait/flaw.
      2). Use an event like Christmas or a snow storm to tie the events together.

      Best of luck! You can do it!

      • Randy Williams

        Good for you for cheering him on. There are a few members that I’m privately pushing to make the deadline with scripts they’re working on.

        I’m not going to the party alone!!!

        my email if the OP wants some feedback. touchthermo at g mail

        • Murphy

          Cheers Randy, appreciated.

      • Murphy

        Cheers Scott, I love some of the responses I have had. Certainly gave me some things to chew on.

        I might take you up on your offer, gonna think things over today and might drop you an email over the weekend.

        My problem seems to be I have a concept in search of a story. It is a high concept and original which makes me reluctant to let it go. But feedback like I have had here today does help me examine what I want to achieve from it.

        Cheers.

    • brenkilco

      As noted, since there is no need for the protag to be a robber in order to come into possession of the money, the story seems at first glance disconnected. And since you’re not telling us who is sending him the money or why we can only speculate. But it does open up some interesting possibilities. Clearly nobody legitimate is sending a million dollars in cash through the mail. So they’re going to be out to get the guys who robbed them. The protag must figure out why he was the intended recipient before the owners of the cash wipe out his gang. Or alternately the owners may reveal to him why he was to receive the money and since he’s already divided it up with the other members of the gang, who won’t give their shares back, he can only sweat while he watches the owners close in on the robbers. Interesting suspense setup.

      • Murphy

        You have mentioned some things I am been thinking about, some scenes in my head. Whoever sent the money is going to know where the money is and they will come and wipe out his gang.

    • Randy Williams

      Me as audience would immediately think someone is on to him and testing him in some way, perhaps to do a bigger job for them and that’s the payment. That someone will be contacting him soon. I wouldn’t think “coincidence” at all.

      I try to push myself to provide twists in my stories and I’m always looking for them in other scripts. So, I might think you’re playing with time and space. He could have mailed the parcel to himself in another dimension for some reason and doesn’t remember.

      He could have kidnapped someone and doesn’t remember and that’s the ransom from someone who doesn’t want the police involved.

      Even if there seemed like a coincidence at first, I would think you’ll get me in the end.

    • Scott Strybos

      That the package is addressed to him seems a little… like a twist for twists sake. And while it may work as a twist, temporarily, it really lacks tension or conflict….

      Instead, what if the package is addressed to his wife. A wife who works a dead-end job and has no family money, someone who has no business having a million dollars… To take it a little further, what if he mistreats his wife. Which is why she would never mention it to him. Because maybe she is planning on leaving him.

      • Murphy

        Thanks. A great angle and I like it. I am going to let that sit in my head today and see what come out! Cheers

    • wlubake

      Here’s something similar that I’d find more interesting. A man is a professional thief by day. Family man by night. One job, he breaks in to steal ________, only to discover that ______ belongs to his wife. How could she have _____? She doesn’t have a job. She’s a soccer mom. Yet, it appears she has a 2nd life that she’s been hiding from him. He can’t approach her on it, because she’ll learn he is a thief. Plus, if she has _________ and has been hiding it, how dangerous could she or the people she’s connected to be?

      • wlubake

        Just saw Scott was thinking along the same lines…

    • Citizen M

      Deepen the mystery. Along with the money is a note: “You are going to need this.” Signed, A Friend.

    • Eric

      I don’t really see this as a connection that adds much value. The question is, what does someone sending him a million dollars have to do with him being a mail truck robber? Just because things are happening at the same time, doesn’t mean they’re connected. If these things happened separately, would the story be different?

      Now if he found a package addressed to himself, and inside it there were surveillance photos of him robbing an earlier truck, that establishes a mystery that applies directly to what he is doing. It implies that someone is so on to him that they can predict his next move, but they must be of a criminal nature because they haven’t gone to the authorities. Maybe when he goes to the return address he finds a mob boss or secret agent type who gives him the whole, “we’ve been watching you and we have a job for you” routine.

      As for whether it is too much of a coincidence, coincidences are more forgivable in the Act I than Act III. Coincidences in Act I should be getting your character into trouble (=fine). Coincidences in Act III would likely be getting your character out of trouble (=not so fine). It can still be done, but it has to be well set-up so it doesn’t feel like a coincidence. And even then, you should still be tough on your Protag. Their success can’t rest entirely on chance.

  • ripleyy

    Really great article. I had a script – a horror, in fact – that took place in this house which was haunted, until the couple realized that the ghosts were, in fact, them in an alternative reality who were starting to bleed through into their own (in this case, there were four couples, all different variations of the same model). The fun part was having one thing affect everything and when it did, it could be in small ways or big.

    Connectivity is a great way to cut corners. The main thing you need to do when you rewrite is shorten everything, not lengthen it. It’s a lot like Tetris in a way, where you’ve gotten yourself into a bit of a mess and your only solution is to fit as many pieces into everything to shorten it down. Cutting scenes and doubling them up as well as connecting everything into one perfectly wound knot is the best way to move forward and knowing your script is going to work much better because of it.

    Scripts such as CRASH need connectivity more than ever. In fact, one of my favourite book series, “The Expanse”, is really fun to read because it has these unrelated characters who eventually connect in some point in the book. It’s strange, but it’s a pretty good motivator. Your audiences will hold onto the very end to see who ends up in your story.

    • pmlove

      It’s what made Seinfeld a superior sitcom – all the sub-plots would converge at the end.

      • Randy Williams

        Some sitcom plots have a character show their mettle by taking several sub-plots and converging them at the end to solve a problem or satisfy someone. I think I recall Zack doing that in “Saved By The Bell”, in what I consider a MUCH “superior” sitcom. :)

  • tyrabanksy

    Great article. Thank you!

  • mulesandmud

    One important point about creating story connections: everything doesn’t have to fit together right from the start.

    In fact, one of the great pleasures of a story is the way seemingly unrelated elements can dovetail or intersect in unexpected ways. We all know how stories work, so when a story introduces two threads that don’t fit together easily, it builds anticipation: we wonder how these two disparate threads will find their way to each other by the end.

    Think of the opening scene of PULP FICTION, with Pumpkin and Hunny Bunny at the diner. How intentionally unrelated it seems to everything else, until Jules and Vincent are finishing breakfast, and we realize ‘Holy shit, it’s the same diner!”

    Or MEMENTO, with its running motif of cutting to Leonard in a motel room in black and white, which seems irrelevant for most of the film, until it becomes clear that the reverse narrative has actually been leading backwards to that scene the entire time, making it the chronological beginning of the story.

    These are two structurally unique films, I know, but I use them as examples because their nonlinear approach makes the architecture of those dovetails so clear.

    Thinking about story connections doesn’t mean tying everything together all the time. It means having a plan. It means seeing the overall shape of your story so that by the end every element has contributed in a way that makes it essential to the larger story.

    And it also means letter readers know you’ve got a plan. Giving them reasons to trust you, to keep the faith. Because once a reader starts to lose confidence in a script, that lost faith is damn hard to recover.

    In television, stories can wait entire seasons before weaving story threads together. GAME OF THRONES in particular has made the question “What does any of this have to do with anything else?” a fundamental part of the experience. We enjoy the suspense, but we also suspend our overall judgement, because if by the end it turns out that none of these storylines actually tie together in a meaningful way, then we may retroactively call bullshit (as many viewers did with LOST).

    When most of us sit down to watch a movie or read a script, we do it with the general assumption that everything is happening for a reason. People implicitly put their faith in storytelling, and as writers it’s important that we nurture that faith, not abuse it. That means rewarding readers for their trust in our plan.

    When Carson talks about over-connected stories, he’s mostly talking about connections between characters or action that are incidental or coincidental, but unnecessary to the overall story. However, when story elements are all deeply interconnected and also relevant to the drama at every turn, that’s not over-connection. It’s just good.

    Carson says you can add connections in the rewrite, which is true, but it’s often smarter to use the opposite approach. Don’t be afraid to lay on your connections thick in the first draft, to make every single character the sister/mother of every other character.

    Then, once you’ve laid it on thick, you can step back and look at your story to see which of those connections go unused in the drama, and decide on a case by case basis whether you need to add more drama or lose the connection.

    In the end, it depends on the type of story you’re trying to write. A story that wants to feel naturalistic can’t play its connections too hard; events need to feel incidental while still remaining relevant. Meanwhile, a story that wants to feel melodramatic or ridiculous can lean in the other direction, indulging a bit of knowing over-connection.

    Just make sure you have a plan.

    • S.C.

      It’s not a movie (although, interestingly enough, it started out as a treatment for a screenplay) but Frederick Forsyth’s 1979 novel THE DEVIL’S ALTERNATIVE comes to mind. In the first half of the book we have the following stories:

      * A famine in the Soviet Union which leads to a grain-for-arms reduction treaty.
      * A British agent in Moscow whose ex-girlfriend is passing him classified documents.
      * Jewish-Ukrainian terrorists assassinating the head of the KGB but captured in West Berlin before they can fly to Israel and tell the world what they’ve done.
      * The launch of the world’s largest supertanker.

      In the second half of the story, the supertanker is hijacked outside Rotterdam and disaster threatened unless the two prisoners in West Berlin are released.

      The West Germans are willing to release the prisoners, but the release is blocked by the Americans who have been told by the Russians that if the men are released the treaty will be torn up.

      The hero has to ask his girlfriend to find out why the Russians don’t want the men released, but this puts her life in jeopardy.

      All the separate storylines become intertwined.

      All right, such a complex story isn’t for everyone, but Forsyth was very good at interweaving separate storylines. I’ve learned a lot from reading him.

      Any other examples?

      • romer6

        I have this book sitting on my shelf and now I feel the urge to read it. It means I will have to abandon my current read and that will make about the sixth book I abandon without finishing this year alone… damn, I am a quitter.

    • brenkilco

      The more integrated the elements of a script the more satisfying it will be. In that way screenplays may be more like short stories than novels. All the elements have to matter to the whole. But as you note when and how you make the connections will vary depending on the type of story.

      One cool example I’ve always liked. Hitchcock’s last movie Family Plot is fairly minor but it has a pretty good plot. We follow two separate stories- the first involving a phony clairvoyant searching for a missing heir and the second about a big time kidnapper- until they ultimately come together. The kidnapper is the heir. Now since the plots don’t come together for a while, a lesser writer and filmmaker would simply have cut between them at the beginning. Instead Hitchcock has the main character in the first plot nearly run over the main character in the second plot with his car about ten minutes into the movie. And we immediately jump from following the first character to following the second. While this sounds a bit contrived, the physical intersection of the plots before the narrative brings them together works really well. We sense that everything is connected before we know how.
      Decades ago Hollywood use to make Grand Hotel type movies. Various stories bound together by nothing but a common location. Seemingly a recipe for a shapeless, disconnected movie. But if you go back and check out the best of this sort of picture, The V.I.P’s for example, you’ll see that the writers were always careful to have the apparently discrete plots link up at some point. To have the resolution of one story dependent on the resolution of another. Integration and connection is a necessary component of every kind of successful narrative.

      • S.C.

        FAMILY PLOT is a good movie example. Also AIRPORT, which despite attempts to persuade me otherwise, I think it’s terrific:

        * A plane stuck in the snow.
        * The airport manager’s relationship with his wife and co-worker.
        * The pilot getting his stewardess mistress pregnant.
        * An elderly stowaway.
        * A man who intends to blow up the plane and himself so his family can collect the insurance.

        All the events are brought together when the plane with the pilot, the stewardess, the bomber and the stowaway has to make an emergency landing on the runway where the plane is stuck. The manager has to make a decision over whether to wait and let George Kennedy drive the plane away or shove it off the runway and risk debris everywhere.

        There’s even a sub-subplot about aircraft noise that gets hilariously shoved out the way.

        • brenkilco

          Airport, though old fashioned even at the time of its release, was an immense hit. so it would be wrong to dismiss it out of hand. And though it has a lot of subplots it does follow the principles of integration. So the sweet little old lady stowaway has to help distract the crazy bomber at the climax and the George Kennedy character who’s just around to get the runways cleared suddenly becomes vitally important when the bombed plane has to make an emergency landing etc. Disaster movies also have a narrative edge over conventional Grand Hotel type movies in that all the characters are linked by a central, overriding problem.

          • Poe_Serling

            Just recently I had the chance to see the John Wayne film The High and the Mighty for the very first time. For whatever reason I just couldn’t get into the story, but I still appreciated how it’s structure paved the way for a host of future films.

          • brenkilco

            Never been able to sit through High and the Mighty which I recall as a lot more of a soap opera than a suspenser. And not very compelling as either.

    • Andrew Parker

      Reminds me of one of Billy Wilder’s screenwriting suggestions…

      “A tip from Lubitsch: Let the audience add up two plus two. They’ll love you forever.”

      • S.C.

        I must confess, I never understood EXACTLY what Lubitsch/Wilder meant by that line, although everyone quotes it. I’ve got my ideas, but does someone want to tell me what they think it means?

        • JakeBarnes12

          It means don’t tell them “four.” Give them “two” and then another “two” and let them work it out for themselves.

          Writers who don’t trust their audience and simply spoon feed them information take away that pleasure.

          • S.C.

            Honestly, that’s kind of what I thought it was… but it’s one of those cliches that gets thrown around, and I’ve seen it used in otherwise.

            Thanks, Jake. I agree. Don’t make it too hard to follow, but don’t make it too obvious either.

          • Bifferspice

            are you on the windup pretending not to get that? very clever :)

        • brenkilco

          The example Wilder liked to use was from a Lubitsch movie. A corpulent king kisses his queen goodbye and exits his bedroom, passes by the handsome soldier guarding the door, descends a flight of steps, realizes he has forgotten his ceremonial sword, goes back up the stairs, fails to notice the soldier has disappeared, reenters the bedroom. The camera remains outside. The king reappears starts back down the stairs while attempting to buckle the belt holding the sword, finally realizes that it is several sizes too small.

    • Poe_Serling

      Great stuff as usual, mules.

      I’ve noticed In the right hands that even the thinnest story thread can sometimes swing back in unexpected and satisfying ways in a film.

      BLOW OUT…

      Jack Terry, Travolta’s character, works as a sound man for a bargain basement producer of horror films. We open the film with the producer chewing out Travolta’s ass for his lousy sound effects, especially the girl’s scream in the shower scene from the company’s latest schlock fest.

      This chiding by the producer to get better sound effects sets the story in motion and ultimately leads Terry to record the murderous blow out of the presidential candidate.

      Over the course of the entire film..

      As Terry digs deeper into the car crash and discovers a major conspiracy within the government, the sleazy producer keeps popping into various scenes and asking ‘Where’s my scream?’

      By the end, the seemingly random request for ‘a better scream’ turns into quite a powerful and haunting ending to the film.

  • Scott Strybos

    I remember a film from the late nineties called Playing by Heart, a film I saw because Agent Scully was in it, and it followed four or five different storylines, that seemed separate, but then a person in each story inexplicably used the term “anger ball,” and in the end it turned out they were all family members.

    I don’t know if this a good example or a superficial one—it is just one of the first examples that popped into my head…. Does the connectivity have to be deep?

  • Doug

    I’m a great believer that the main reason a movie fails is because of its name. If you can’t go up to the cinema cashier and say the name of the movie without bursting into laughter, or feeling embarrassed, then the movie is probably gonna flop.

    ‘Aloha’ sounds like that sort of movie. Its name is up there with such gems as ‘Shanghai Surprise’ and ‘Ishtar’ in terms of crapness. Besides, ‘Aloha’ is described as an action romance, which is always the kiss of death, because it’s designed to appeal to both men and women, yet women won’t watch action, and men won’t watch romance. The poster looks crap too (could they have made it look any more generic?). Sony should just have set fire to the $100 million they spent on this. Seriously, why the frack do studio heads greenlight this stuff?

    • ripleyy

      “Can I see Aloh-HA HA HA HA HA HA!”
      “What did you say, sir?”
      “AL… ALOH-HAHAHAHAHAHAH!!”
      “It really isn’t that funny, sir.”

    • Crow the Crowe

      Because Cameron Crowe made ‘Say Anything’, still has the ear of Hollywood and Bradly Cooper wanted to do it. That’s how it happens… but this movie looks terrible, so pretentious and 2015 elitist.

    • Charles Walters

      It’s funny you should mention the power of titles. Even though the movie itself will probably make money, I feel the movie title “Spy” (new Melissa McCarthy action-comedy) is very generic and uninventive. It’s like they thought about it for a nanosecond and then just slapped on the most basic label that came to mind. It’s like calling Age of Ultron “Robot Supervillain.”

    • Bluedust

      I had the same reaction when I first saw the poster for Aloha. It looked like a cheesy throwback to some early 90’s romcom. And that tagline: “Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say hello.” Uh, wha?

    • Midnight Luck

      I think they wanted a TOP GUN kind of action/romance. Flight gettup, sunny locale man and woman both In the military and work together and possibly fall in love. I mean it is very similar looking. And that one worked, it was a huge hit and MADE Tom Cruise.

      I am a huge Crowe fan, I hope this is a good movie, but it seems everyone on here thinks it’ll be a stinker.

  • Snowman Cometh

    This is amazing. Before coming here today I posted a thread at another site about this
    exact thing. Only my subplots are making me reconsider my main plot. I’m
    beginning to see they don’t connect, and then came this thread, which was
    completely enlightening. Thank You.

    This is an extremely tricky thing to beat. Because as a writer you think your subplots are
    connecting with your main plot. But in reality they might just be grazing and
    in a very small insignificant way.

    There’s a reason writing a screenplay is considered extremely difficult.

  • Scott Strybos

    Couldn’t it be argued that Love Actually had a thematic connectivity?

    • wlubake

      It absolutely does, but there was a concerted effort to connect the story lines plot-wise. I always found it distracting. I enjoyed the movie enough, but for what Carson is discussing, this feels like a ridiculous example of the concept.

      • Scott Strybos

        Richard Curtis himself has referred to Love Actually as a “catastrophe.”

        I, not a fan of the romantic comedy at all, like the film quite a bit—the film is just so… charming.

  • Citizen M

    Good observation, Carson. I’ve read many AF scripts that would be improved by making them more connected.

  • S.C.

    DEEP RISING

    Two stories: a hijack and a monster attack.

    Connection: A cruise ship is stopped in the middle of the Pacific so it can be hijacked.

    http://i102.photobucket.com/albums/m104/mrr_03/argg.jpg

    This leaves it open to attack by a giant sea creature.

    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-h9SDgJqDb6k/Txa5rDZL0EI/AAAAAAAABDw/oKjR-B53LPk/s1600/Deep-Rising-Creature-Concept.jpg

    So when the hijackers board the ship…

    http://cps-static.rovicorp.com/2/Open/Disney/Deep%20Rising/_derived_jpg_q90_600x800_m0/deep%20rising%20still%201.jpg?partner=allmovie_soap

    … they find the creature.

    http://www.joblo.com/newsimages1/hand%20hole.jpg

    Two stories connected.

    • Poe_Serling

      One of my guilty pleasures. Worth checking out for Kevin J. O’Connor’s comedic turn as ship mechanic Joey Pantucci.

      • Marija ZombiGirl

        No guilt here, this is a great B-movie from the first frame to the last :)

        • Poe_Serling

          Too bad it performed so poorly at the box-office… the ending of the film left it wide open for the sequel.

          Deep Foliage.. ;-)

  • S.C.

    UNDER SIEGE 2: DARK TERRITORY

    Fun movie, but trouble connecting different elements.

    Travis Dane (Eric Bogosian) plans to hijack a weapons satellite he helped develop, destroy The Pentagon, make a billion dollars AND get his revenge on his former employers.

    https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/originals/d3/38/f5/d338f5d0511a7b78b5cb37b3207c09b4.jpg

    Fine.

    Dane can hijack the satellite using computers, but he needs to be moving so he can’t be traced. So his men hijack a train.

    Why a train? Well, it wouldn’t be Die Hard on a Train if they hijacked a bus. Plus, a train can carry more heavy equipment (?) and they need the passengers.

    OK, I’ll buy that. Just.

    Another reason for hijacking the train; the two captains with the passwords for the satellite just so happen to be having sex aboard.

    http://www.screeninsults.com/images/under-siege-2-password.jpg

    That’s a HUGE coincidence.

    Then this guy turns up.

    http://cineplex.media.baselineresearch.com/images/273107/273107_full.jpg

    And he’s armed. A Colt .45 in one hand, an Apple Newton in the other.

    The terrorists worst nightmare just happens to be onboard THIS train.

    Part of this is “adaptation decay”; in Matt Reeves and Richard Hatem’s original spec script “Dark Territory” (a.k.a. “End of the Line”), the hero was an ordinary guy, a “Harrison Ford type”.

    In NORTH BY NORTHWEST, the coincidence of Cary Grant being mistaken for a spy doesn’t matter, since Grant is an ordinary guy.

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/45/North_by_Northwest_movie_trailer_screenshot_(8).jpg

    But in UNDER SIEGE 2, Steven Seagal’s presence on the train is entirely coincidental and convenient. Maybe if he was train security, or the train’s cook, we might buy it.

    Then again, we don’t watch movies like UNDER SIEGE 2 for a logical storyline.

  • wlubake

    Another good example is how Crazy, Stupid Love tied the stories together. I kept thinking that Emma Stone felt tacked on. Sure it made sense for Gosling to have a love interest, but we were spending more time with her alone than with Gosling alone. Then it comes together.

    • Kirk Diggler

      It was one of those movies that surprised me in a real good way.

  • Nicholas J

    Agreed. No effort was actually put into making these character connections affect each other, it was just, “Hey look, they all know each other!” Um, cool?

  • brenkilco

    Agreed. How then to account for the fact that it is inarguably the most beloved romantic comedy of the past twenty years. I don’t count myself a fan but there’s no point in denying Curtis’ talent or the inherent charm of the thing. It’s is so gossamer light and skin deep that maybe the nearly random nature of the connections made it seem even more of a piece. The makers pulled it off but it was a silly template for anyone to copy.

  • S.C.

    OT: Following on from something I wrote yesterday, about how a lot of specs are just reworkings of old movies, this is a new spec on the market.

    MAYDAY 109
    Logline: Based on actual events; tells the story of how a young John F. Kennedy struggled to save the crew of his PT Boat after it was sunk by a Japanese warship during World War II.

    All they did was change the first part of the title – PT-109 to MAYDAY 109.

    Seems to have worked, though.

  • shanna

    Ahhhh. Connections…i.e. subplots.

    • Scott Strybos

      The great Brian McDonald wrote that you shouldn’t call them sub-plots but rather SUPPORTING PLOTS. Because their sole function is to support the main plot.

  • Scott Strybos

    Do you know they are related from the get-go? I remember there being no interaction between any of them, or discussion about them being related, until the big party at the end, which was meant to act as a big reveal that they were all related. Or do you mean you instinctively knew because of how the characters/film was written?

  • Poe_Serling

    The Middle and Modern Family are the only two sitcoms that I try to watch on a weekly basis.

    Kind of the perfect comedy bookends for me – propping up one end, the working-class family living in rural Indiana; on the other side, the upper-middle class families living in Los Angeles.

  • Bifferspice

    welcome back, grendl. i’ve missed you.

    • Poe_Serling

      If you noticed, grendl just gave us a master class on the art of creating an effective advertising campaign to announce his return…

      >>Short teaser ad this past weekend.
      >>Another teaser ad yesterday.
      >>Lengthy comment. He’s officially back.

  • Murphy

    Good idea, and I am giving it some thought to see if that can lead me anywhere, great cheers.

  • Levres de Sang

    Thank you for another insightful Thursday article, Carson. Interweaving all the threads and connections reminds me of a comment Syd Field made in his famous book: that screenwriting is as complex and difficult as composing a symphony!

    My own example of a film that does this superbly is Kieslowski’s Three Colours: Red — the ending to which weaves an element that had seemed insignificant into its tragedy and truly astonished me. That there’s also a subtle amalgamation with the other two films in the trilogy is merely the icing on the cake.

    • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

      Levres! Hey man, I wanted to find some contact info on Disqus but I couldn’t find any. I wanted to send you a private message, so if it’s okay with you, can I have your email? Mine is vetolgar@gmail.com. Thanks

      • Levres de Sang

        Will send shortly, Sebastian!

        • http://apairoftools.wordpress.com/ Sebastian Cornet

          Cheers, man. And congrats on landing Amateur Friday, belated as it might be.

  • Eric

    “How many scripts here at SS actually do that? Not many.”

    To be fair, we’d have to get to the end to know.

  • Cfrancis1

    Bravo, Carson! I totally agree. And I am really sad to hear about Crowe’s new movie being such a mess. I used to love his stuff. What the hell happened to him?

  • hickeyyy

    I’m not sure that they can. And he plays far too many important characters for them to just kill them all off. This may be the beginning of the end.