Screenwriting 101: How to Create Likeable Unlikeable Characters

It’s a note I’ve received many times, “this character is unlikeable. How are we supposed to follow an entire TV Series/Feature for him/her and root for them?” And as far as I’m aware it’s a common note I’ve seen given to many other writers. The truth is we love to write unlikeable characters and that makes complete sense. As writers, we are drawn to characters whose minds delve into the darkest regions of our psyche. Let’s face it, no one’s all that curious about what goes on in the mind of a happy-go-lucky soccer Mom. Not that there’s nothing interesting there, but it is in the unlikeable that we see part of ourselves we either may not have the courage to access or wouldn’t want to. Characters who delve into our darkest fantasies or curiosities as Carl Jung may describe it their shadow has become a prominent part of their primary personality.

The tricky part is making these characters likable. Unfortunately, I’m going to have to pull out a little Blake Snyder for you right now. To create an unlikeable character you essentially have to “save the cat.” I’m not a big fan of this phrase. I mean, come on, can we imagine Cersei or Joffrey Lannister from Game of Thrones saving a helpless cat just to make us warm up to them? I can’t. At least not without some suspicion as to what other more gruesome fate would await that poor feline. “Save the cat,” feels like an all too wholesome deed for a predominantly unlikeable character. So here’s the question. Why are we so enthralled by characters like Cersei Lannister, Walter White, Don Draper, Travis Bickel (Taxi), Mark Zuckerberg (The Social Network) and Henry Hill (Goodfellas). We love these characters, but why? And to skip over another cat analogy, we love these characters because they have flaws and wounds that are relatable. We see ourselves in their vulnerability, and yes, at times revel in their retribution, or hell, even admire some of their characteristics.

Let’s take a closer look, shall we? Now, a fair warning, there are plenty of spoilers ahead so I’ll try to break the characters down in a way where you can skip over anything that you don’t want to be ruined.

Game of Thrones has been one of my great TV obsessions, as I’m sure it’s been for many of you. I’ve had some friends comment that they dislike the show for its lack of “likable” characters and that they just can’t get into how terrible they are to one another, but this is the reason I love it. Cersei is by far one of my favorites. Yes, the Lannisters do unspeakable things to people, but between herself and her brother Tyrian, these two characters have managed to outlast so many of their family members. The moment I grew to love Cersei was during her second season monologue, during the battle of Blackwater in which she was forced to sit idly by, trapped with the other “lesser women” while the men went out to fight. Here, while explaining to Sansa Stark what will happen when the keep is taken, she reveals her first real sign of fear and vulnerability. This is particularly notable for a character who, on all other occasions, stands head-to-head with any male adversary that comes her way. Now she has been whittled down to her gender, forced to hide in fear while the men did the work. Another great example is more recently in seasons 5 and 6, after having been humiliated by the High Sparrow and his lot, forced to walk naked through the streets while being taunted and abused in every manner of fashion. Here we may have reveled in her comeuppance, but I know for myself as the scene drove on I pitied her, and when she got her revenge at the end of the following season by (SPOILER ALERT) blowing up the temple with all her enemies gathered within, I couldn’t help but revel in her victory as I know many of my friends who watch the show had.

Let’s take a look at another favorite, Walter White. Why has Walter White captivated such audiences in Breaking Bad? Why do we root for him as he is ruthlessly kills and destroys any rival that may threaten his empire? Simple, he comes from humble beginnings. Think of it for a minute. Why did Walter White suddenly decide to cook meth to begin with? It was a means to an end. An incredibly intelligent man, somehow forced into a mediocre life, now diagnosed with cancer is trying his best to see that his wife and disabled son are well supported when he passes on. The only problem is, that doesn’t happen, and yet, by the time he’s crossed the point of no return we are already invested in this loveable character who has unfortunately become corrupted by his own devices.

Here’s one that takes a different path, Don Draper of Mad Men. I dare say it, but it’s hard to find a loveable or redemptive quality about this man. So why do we admire him so? Granted a large part has to do with many of the characters with more admirable qualities, like Peggy, that surround him, but ultimately we seem to love Don Draper. He represents that greatest of American qualities — he pulled up his bootstraps and by any means necessary made it to the top. We admire his success, it’s the life some part of us wishes we could have. Of course, not all of us want to be womanizers or neglect our family, but to watch him in the room at work, we all aspire to be the Don Draper of our respective craft –ruthless, intelligent, with a dash of class and wealth.

Now, many of these characters reside in the realm of TV, so for one more example, yes one more, just “drink your juice, Shelby.” Let us look into Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, Travis Bickel. A man seemingly on the edge. We can’t take our eyes away as he spirals down the rabbit hole of repressed rage and desire. Yet why do we follow this man? He’s clearly a loner and a psychopath. But perhaps that’s why we love him. Bickel represents are darkest repressed feelings. The anger at the unfairness of life we’ve all felt. The hurt and sexual desire we’ve felt for a person yet find our feelings unreciprocated. His angst is our familiarity. The only difference is he’s willing to go down the path to explore those emotions while we stay safely at home, cringing at his actions. Until he finds hope in Iris, Jodi Foster’s character, a chance to save someone from the darkness that rage within him, and he steer the course to redemption.

So why choose an unlikeable character? In some regards, they are difficult to write, but at their core, the conflict both within and around them makes them ripe for storytelling. The tricky thing here is to set your character along his or her dark path without making a story that makes your audience turn away in disgust. These characters all have a humanity about them. They are ruthless, but we understand and feel empathy for their flaws, their fears, and their pain. They all have some form of an admirable trait and a goal the audience can relate to. Whether it’s taking care of one’s family through any means necessary, wanting to exact revenge, rising to the top of our career, or simply fulfilling our deepest and most carnal desires, we write them to explore the unexplored part of ourselves.

With such characters, it is important to be self-aware with your work. A script with a theme of “people are terrible and should all be destroyed,” would be a much less compelling or attractive story than a story that can justify an unlikeable character’s actions through a theme such as “crime doesn’t pay.” The character must learn his lesson through his bad behavior and in your writing you must make the audience aware that you are aware that your character’s behavior is repellent; however, in your character’s mind, their ends justify their means.  And if you’re going to redeem them by the end of your story, you better put them through hell and make them suffer for the damage they have caused just like Travis Bickel.

The easiest example I can describe as a path to redemption is the “Kingslayer” Jaime Lannister from Game of Thrones. A once proud and skilled warrior who felt near invincible in his position is literally cut down by his captors when they slice off his right hand. Now Jamie must not only relearn the skills that came to him easily when he had the use of his sword hand, but is now humbled by the realization that if he is going to make it out alive he will have to rely on the help of others, many of whom are ones who he once viewed as his lesser.

Likable characters are all well and good, but at the end of the day who doesn’t love a bad boy…or girl for that matter. 

Source: Script Lab

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:22+00:00 April 12th, 2017|Categories: main|Tags: |

First Ten Pages: The Sound of Music (1965)

Screenplay by: Ernest Lehman

Julie Andrews and Christopher Lee star in this classic musical about a nun named Maria who is sent to care for the Von Trapp children in Salzburg, Austria. Screenwriter Ernest Lehman seamlessly weaves the 5 major rules for a screenplay into the first 10 pages. Let’s break them down. 

CHARACTER INTRODUCTION

A good screenplay will introduce the main character with flair, which helps to augment the importance that character holds over supporting ones in the reader’s mind. It gives us a reference point, a human context to discern the world the screenplay describes. Consider Lehman’s style as he introduces us to a girl named Maria.
___________________________________________________________

PAGE 1 

FADE IN

EXT. THE AUSTRIAN ALPS – DAY – HELICOPTER SHOTS

The screen glows an eerie blue, then fills with swirling white mists. We fly through the misty cloud and emerge over a craggy, snow-draped mountain range.

The massive, forbidding peaks stretch to the horizon, then disappear behind more dense mist. The white fog gives way to silky sheets of snow covering a mountainside.We fly over a sheer rock face. Hundreds of feet below a river runs through a grassy valley like a glistening white ribbon. The snow-covered Alps give way to gently rolling hills and lush forests. Birds whistle. We fly out from behind a hillside and over a broad lake, glittering in the brightening sunshine. MUSIC sneaks in. 

We fly over a clear glassy lake that mirrors a huge mountain beside it and the blue sky above. Then over a magnificent green valley nestled among the hills. In the valley below, the roofs of a small town lie clustered together around a church and its steeple. Now, we glide over elegant, lakeside castles and mansions with acres of emerald green farmland. 

We fly toward a sunny alpine meadow where a young woman with short blonde hair strolls through the grass, swinging her arms in a carefree stride. She wears black shoes and stockings and a gray smocked apron over a black dress. 

Her name is Maria. As we close in on her rapidly, she spreads her arms and twirls in a joyful spin. 

MARIA
The hills are alive with the sound of music. With songs they have sung for a thousand years. The hills fill my heart with the sound of music. My heart wants to sing every song it hears. My heart wants to beat like the wings of the birds that rise from the lake to the trees. My heart wants to sigh like a chime that flies from a church on a breeze. She runs to a brook and skips stones in it.

___________________________________________________________ 

This is a tracking shot on steroids. We start in the clouds, immersed in “swirling white mists”, a sign that this will be a whimsical, light, and airy film. Since the mountains play a pivotal role in the conclusion of the film (on the last page of the screenplay, the Von Trapp family escapes through the mountains to elude capture from the Nazis), Lehman describes them to us on the first page as we swoop down on the central character.

Her name is Maria and the first words out of her mouth are words of song. She is blissfully happy and free as a bird. As she stretches her arms and fills the air with her music, we understand this is a woman who is independent and carefree. In the pages that follow this wonderful opening, we discover she is a nun, something that completely contradicts our first impression.

Contrast in film is critical. It helps sharpen a reader’s interest and accentuate a character’s disposition. A woman like Maria wouldn’t necessarily thrive in a convent, an observation that hasn’t escaped the watchful eyes of Maria’s fellow nuns. Consider the following exchange the Reverend Mother Abbess has with Sisters Berthe, Bernice, Sophia, Catherine and Margaretta on page 3.

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PAGE 3

SISTER BERNICE
Reverend Mother?

MOTHER ABBESS
Sister Bernice? 

SISTER BERNICE
I simply cannot find her. 

MOTHER ABBESS
Maria? 

SISTER BERNICE
She’s missing from the Abbey again. 

SISTER BERTHE
Perhaps we should have put a cowbell around her neck.

SISTER MARGARETTA
Have you tried the barn? You know how much she adores the animals. 

SISTER BERNICE
I have looked everywhere, in all of the usual places. 

MOTHER ABBESS
Sister Bernice, considering that it’s Maria, I suggest you look in someplace unusual.

Sister Bernice nods and walks away. The three nuns cross the courtyard.

SISTER BERTHE
Well, Reverend Mother, I hope this new infraction ends whatever doubts you may still have about Maria’s future here. 

MOTHER ABBESS
I always try to keep faith in my doubts, Sister Berthe. 

SISTER MARGARETTA
After all, the wool of a black sheep is just as warm.

SISTER BERTHE
We are not talking about sheep, black or white, Sister Margaretta. Of all the candidates for the novitiate I would say that Maria is the least likely–

MOTHER ABBESS
(chides them)
Children, children.

Mother Abbess sees several nuns gathered, staring at them, puzzled.

MOTHER ABBESS
(to the other nuns)
… er, we were speculating about the qualifications of some of our postulants. The Mistress of Novices and the Mistress of Postulants were trying to help me by expressing opposite points of view. Tell me, Sister Catherine, what do you think of … Maria?

SISTER CATHERINE
She’s a wonderful girl … some of the time. 

MOTHER ABBESS
Sister Agatha? 

SISTER AGATHA
It’s very easy to like Maria … except when it’s, uh, difficult. 

MOTHER ABBESS
And you, Sister Sophia? 

SISTER SOPHIA
Oh, I love her very dearly. But she always seems to be in trouble, doesn’t she?

SISTER BERTHE
Exactly what I say! She climbs a tree and scrapes her knee. Her dress has got a tear. 

SISTER SOPHIA (sings)
She waltzes on her way to Mass. And whistles on the stair. 

SISTER BERTHE (sings)
And underneath her wimple. She has curlers in her hair.

___________________________________________________________

Lehman masterfully accomplishes two things in this scene. By contrasting Maria’s joyful singing on the hills with a serious discussion by Maria’s superiors about her absence, Lehman helps us to understand the dramatic situation that will soon follow. Sister Bernice’s line, “She’s missing from the Abbey again”, clearly informs us that this has happened before. Maria is a caged bird. Something must give.

Secondly, as the nuns express their frustration with Maria by singing, Lehman reinforces that we are reading a musical. Maria will not be the only one in this screenplay who will sing. Music will be the language all characters in this screenplay will share. 

TONE/GENRE

From the very first word spoken, rather sung, we know this is a musical. It will be a film where the characters will express their feelings, their problems, their thoughts in songs. This is a screenplay dripping with nostalgia as it fondly describes the golden age of the thirties in a light, airy style. 

WORLD OF THE STORY

After the first page describes the majestic green valleys of the Alps in breezy fashion, the second page clarifies the world we have descended upon. ___________________________________________________________

 PAGE 2

MAIN TITLE SEQUENCE – VIEWS OF SALZBURG, AUSTRIA

A title reads: “Salzburg, Austria in the last Golden Days of the Thirties”

INT. THE ABBEY – DAY

Nuns in black habits and novices wearing smocked gray aprons walk calmly across a cobblestone courtyard. Carrying Bibles, they file into a chapel decorated with richly colored stained glass windows and stone sculptures. The women chant in Latin: “Dixit dominus” — followed by a “Morning Hymn” and “Alleluia.”

___________________________________________________________ 

This will be a period piece in a world defined by authority and strictness. This is a world that has imprisoned our heroine. The story will be about her escape from this world. Music will be her saving grace. 

DRAMATIC SITUATION 

On page 9 and 10, we see Mother Abbess and Maria talk about her “problem”. The simmering discussion comes to a boil…

___________________________________________________________ 

PAGE 10

MOTHER ABBESS
Maria … when you saw us over the Abbey wall and longed to be one of us, that didn’t necessarily mean that you were prepared for the way we live here, did it? 

MARIA
No, Mother, but I, I pray and I try. And I am learning. I really am.

MOTHER ABBESS
And what is the most important lesson you have learned here, my child?

MARIA
To find out what is the will of God and … to do it wholeheartedly.

The Reverend Mother stands up decisively.

MOTHER ABBESS
Maria, it seems to be the will of God that you leave us.

MARIA
Leave?! 

___________________________________________________________ 

Here we see Maria’s call to adventure, given to her by none other than her superior, Mother Abbess. In the pages that follow, we learn that Maria is tasked with the job of governess to the Von Trapp children, who are trapped in a prison of their own. They are a perfect challenge for Maria, and she uses her musical talents to first survive, and later thrive, in her new home.

THEME 

The theme of this screenplay is music and the roles it plays as it spins an unconventional tale about a girl named Maria. We learn that music serves several functions in this story. In the first Act, music will liberate, first Maria from the convent and later, the Von Trapp children from their domineering father. 

In the second Act, music will bond, first, Captain Von Trapp with his children, and then, the Captain with Maria. Finally, in the third Act, music will save the Von Trapp family as they win top honors at the Salzburg Festival, buying them enough time to slip away and avoid capture.

In conclusion, the screenplay for The Sound of Music expertly delivers the 5 major rules for a screenplay into the first 10 pages. The character introduction of Maria is one of the best in Hollywood history.

Written by Anthony Faust

Source: Script Lab

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:22+00:00 April 11th, 2017|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: John Wick: Chapter 2 is a Satisfyingly Symphonic Sequel

Keanu Reeves returns as the titular protagonist, a retired hit man who just wants to grieve in peace.

 

Everything except for Keanu Reeves’s emoting gets kicked up a notch in John Wick: Chapter 2, a sequel to 2014’s surprise action hit about a retired hit man who just wants to grieve in peace. There’s more blood, definitely more head shots (not the modeling kind), more hand-to-hand maneuvers, and surprisingly even more humor, courtesy of the chic and oddly proper underworld introduced in the previous film.

 

 

Screenwriter Derek Kolstad and director Chad Stahelski (who goes way back with Reeves, having worked on stunts for both The Matrix and Constantine) both return for the second chapter, picking up roughly where the first film ended.

 

Those who missed the first film get brought up to speed within the first five to ten minutes as a Russian mobster swigs vodka to calm his nerves about Wick (Reeves), an assassin likened to a boogeyman because of his ability to get the job done through impossible odds. Wick shoots and smashes around the man’s garage to while the mobster bemoans how his idiot nephew brought on this world of hurt by killing Wick’s dog and stealing his car.

 

Wick retrieves the car, which like that dog, was a gift from his deceased wife, Helen (Bridget Moynihan, shown only in photos and a brief flashback). He returns home to the young pit bull picked up toward the end of the previous movie, but he’s given little time for solace.

 

Turns out to leave this interconnected underworld when you’re as good at your job as Wick requires a blood promise, a future debt. Wick gave his to Santino D’Antonio (Riccardo Scamarcio) in exchange for his freedom and life with Helen, but with Helen gone, D’Antonio returns for a favor: Kill my sister, so I can take her place in the underworld hierarchy.

 

Wick declines (“I’m not that guy anymore,” he says), so D’Antonio makes him an offer he can’t refuse, including putting a price on Wick’s head.

 

Part of the film’s charm is this underworld, first seen in the original film with The Continental, a hotel for assassins where rules say no business is conducted on the premises. Wick returns there reluctantly to satisfy his blood promise. Animal lovers will be glad to see he leaves his dog in the care of the concierge (Lance Reddick), one of many exchanges in this brutal world amusing for their politeness.

 

But the film doesn’t stop there: The Continental turns out to be part of a worldwide chain, a kind of Ritz-Carlton with a sommelier who recommends a robust AR-15 instead of a ripasso. (Franco Nero, the original 1966 Django, plays the Italian version’s counterpart to the New York branch’s Ian McShane, wondering if Wick’s return this time spells doom for the Pope.) The hotels also connect to an anachronistic communications network of pneumatic tubes, operators routing calls via wired switchboards, and Teletype machines for entering contracts on a person’s life, all of which wind up as texts somehow on modern-day smartphones. Best to smile at that and not think too much.

 

John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne turn up along the way as a mechanic and an underworld figure called the Bowery King (his communication relies on off-the-grid carrier pigeons), while rapper turned actor Common (Suicide Squad) and Ruby Rose (XXX: Return of Xander Cage) go hand-to-hand with Reeves. There’s never any doubt that Wick will outsmart his attackers as the noose tightens, but the enjoyment for action fans is seeing how he uses what’s at his disposal in areas such as a staircase, a subway car, and a mirrored art exhibit. Stahelski wisely shoots the one-on-one moments in medium and wide shots so viewers can follow the action clearly.

 

Reeves’s Zen-like cool serves him well here. He’s like an athlete resorting to muscle memory, lethal and lightning quick as he automatically falls into what he’s done best. Having seen the originalJohn Wick, where his grief for his wife was palpable, I think that’s a deliberate choice for this film rather than a flaw. (I have a theory that by John Wick: Chapter 3, we’ll see Wick reach the end of his phases of grief.) But those who missed the first film might find him extraordinarily cold.

 

For action fans, that’s no matter. Just be prepared to wince at some crunching bones and blood spatter as well as laugh where you didn’t expect to do so.

Source: Script Lab

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:26+00:00 February 21st, 2017|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: The Red Turtle Says More With Less

Simplicity can be a complex thing. 

Take the old folktale of Trang Quynh, for example – a recipient of the highest rank in the Vietnmaese Confucian court examination system, Qunyh is challenged by a Chinese envoy to draw an animal within three drum strikes. Unperturbed, Quynh assures the envoy that he can draw 10 in such a time. The envoy is, reasonably, shocked. Soon, the challenge begins and, as the envoy busies himself with drawing a tiger, Quynh remains calm as he takes in his surroundings. As the third beat lands, Quynh dips ten fingers into the paint and swipes them down on the canvas. The envoy is forced to accept defeat – after all, his one tiger is no match for Quynh’s ten earthworms.

Admittedly, “glory” isn’t the goal of The Red Turtle’s back-to-basics approach to animation and storytelling. Still, its intentional distancing from modernity makes it a force to be reckoned with in this year’s Best Animated Feature race. What the film lacks in set pieces, cutting edge animation techniques, and goofy characters, it more than makes up for in its purity of design, and this “less-is-more” approach to narrative is likely to impact viewers in a far richer way than the vast majority of its busy-bodied contemporaries. Quite simply, Turtle represents the finest love letter imaginable to what is quickly becoming an obsolete art.

Those who watched the 2001 Oscars would agree that director Michael Dudok de Wit, through Father and Daughter, is capable of calling up emotions, tears and life lessons with nothing but ambience and a tiny handful of characters. Now, with a longer runtime (and an “upgrade” in terms of gasps, groans and grunts from his characters), Turtle provides a much broader canvas than his earlier work. As one would expect, for something so minimalist, there’s an surprising level of sophistication to the film’s design, all of which work in perfect harmony in order to convey the protagonist’s growing relationship with the film’s titular animal.

It’s tough to say more of the plot since… that’s really all there is. And yet, it seems unfair to label the film as “just” a romance given its overarching, incredibly nuanced commentary on humanity’s relationship with nature. That latter motif, along with the carefully considered artistry, might explain how Turtle gained the endorsement of Studio Ghibli, the acclaimed Japanese animation house with a penchant for Mother Earth. Likewise here, the story written by Dudok de Wit and Pascale Ferran constantly suggests that nature is a force to lived with rather than fought against.

Cementing this sense of harmony is composer Laurent Perez del Mar’s ethereal score. Much like the film’s overall vision and execution, the orchestra directs attention to the imagery rather than to itself, with minor variations to its theme and nothing more. There is a certain novelty from this repetition, however: The music has a decidedly Eastern-leaning scent, which is special for something of European origins, and that this approach grants Turtle the ability to resonate with everyone, everywhere.

Similar to the film’s opening in which our protagonist finds himself pummeled by a vexed sea, Turtle faces an uphill battle this awards season in what has been an unusually strong year for animation. Studio Ghibli’s two most recent heavy hitters (The Wind Rises and Princess Kaguya) faced similar hurdles, which does little to bolster The Red Turtle’s chances come Oscar night.

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Nevertheless, much in the spirit of Trang Quynh, Dudok de Wit and his talented team seem to be operating under the wisest of notions – namely that complexity for complexity’s sake doesn’t equal quality storytelling. For this reason above all, The Red Turtle moves with the sort of precision and singularness that has all but disappeared from cinemas. 

Source: Script Lab[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:27+00:00 February 16th, 2017|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: Silence is Golden

In retrospect, the film gods’ late deliverance of Martin Scorsese’s passion project might have been the resulting film’s ultimate blessing. Without those 26 years, the resulting Silence might have simply settled for being a controversial story (ala The Last Temptation of Christ, which, along with Kundun, forms something of a spiritual trilogy for Scorsese), instead of a necessary one.

As arduous as the Scorsese’s journey to realize his adaptation of Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel is that of the story’s protagonists – Jesuit priests Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver), who are determined to rescue their mentor, Ferreira from the perils of Japan (Liam Neeson). All this in spite of a letter from Ferreira informing the church that he has, per the shogunate’s orders, publicly denounced Christianity.

Much like last year’s pre-Christmas/post-New Year’s Day release, The Revenant, Silence is a grueling watch. Such an effect is amplified with the film’s sparse use of noise and the technical crew’s uncharacteristic method of execution (Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing lets scenes linger; Rodrigo Prieto’s crisp photography is mostly static and basic pans). It’s through this simplicity that depictions of love for Jesus (at certain points subtitled as Deusu, a nice touch) subtly stir while the shoguns’ brutality ties knots in stomachs.

There is no better audience surrogate through this period of awe and horror than Garfield. Now free from the grips of the mega–franchise, the actor gets to reassume and build upon his earlier, better work previously seen in films like Never Let Me Go and 99 Homes. Even if the beard and, later on, the hair draws more attention, it is Garfield’s eyes that make the performance, displaying an excess of lightness and intensity that make every moment of the 162–minute quest worthwhile (even if it does get more devastating by the end). Garfield’s performance should not go unnoticed when awards season arrives.

It is good, then, that surrounding Garfield is a magnetic Japanese cast. Whether as anxious villagers — like the loyal Mokichi (Shinya Tsukamoto), steadfast Ichizo (Yoshi Oida) and the traumatic Kichijirio (Yosuke Kubozuka) — or relentless elites — like as magistrate Inoue (a delightful Issey Ogata) and an interpreter for the priests (Tadanobu Asano), the local cast brings palpable weight to their characters’ cause: keep on attaching to Paraiso or persecute them for favoring a religion with foreign roots.

And that is the more obvious argument that Silence summons. Moral clashes populate the film, and are delivered with both subtlety and otherwise, but they never feel extraneous or attempt to glorify a singular angle. As the film reaches its climax, the discussions that Endo raises become more ambiguous like the fog that often coats the scenery. They also have more sting as they grow to be more personal to Rodrigues, and with him being the viewers’ surrogate, to how belief is perceived.

Even with a more succinct portrayal (as the watch-readers in the theater might have wished for), these conflicts wouldn’t lose their impact thanks to a lean script from Scorsese and Gangs of New York’s Jay Cocks. But Silence’s drawn out, overly thorough inspection of the way people hold up their religion spotlights a society that is getting cozier with isolation and finding it difficult to curb intolerance. A crucial outlook, but one that sadly may not reach many audiences in the new year (good luck persuading people to start their 2017 cinematic journey with something this singularly intense).

Just a prediction, mind, but a shame should it turn out to be true. Here’s to a different result, then, for from this point onward it’s more important than ever to communicate with acceptance. Silence will definitely spark such a conversation.

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Source: Script Lab[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:31+00:00 January 12th, 2017|Categories: main|Tags: |

6 Things You Need to Write a Book 

Don’t underestimate the commitment it will take to realize your story and write a book. Boil your project down to its core components to see your project through to the end .   

Everyone who wants to should be encouraged to write a book, but you should also be aware of what’s ahead. At the highest level, there are some essential components you will need to get your project started and see it through to the end. A book that flounders will likely find its author lacking in one or more of these crucial areas.   

Concept   

Every book needs a concept. This is the idea at the core of the book. It has to be a topic big and interesting enough to warrant a book-sized treatment. Equally important, it has to be dear enough to you to hold your attention to the end of the project. From concept down to each and every word in your book, the levels of a book hierarchy nest into one other like a set of Russian Dolls. Your concept is the biggest of the dolls and the first one readers see. She needs to be as breathtaking as possible so she lures people to pick her up and look inside.

Premise 

Every book needs a premise: it is the specific instance of your concept. Premise is the next smallest Russian doll. You might want to write a book about a superhero. This is your concept. The actual superhero you pick, and her specific adventure, is your premise. The classic way to think about concept and premise is to imagine a series. Take Sherlock Holmes, for example. A detective story is the concept. Each case he cracks is a premise.   

Attention to detail  

You have a super concept and a brilliant premise, but you still have to fill in a tremendous number of details to complete a book. These are the rest of the Russian dolls: The best, most expensive sets contain numerous dolls down to one unbelievably small one at the very center. To build such a well-crafted set requires a lot of work, including writing out all the words you need to realize the premise. Starting with a great outline (third largest doll), your book hierarchy will eventually descend down through chapters, scenes, paragraphs to the selecting of specific words for every sentence – your tiniest doll. This structure brings to life the characters, back story, setting and plot, all of which should excel. Once done, you have a book.

Time 

The first three components I’ve mentioned are conceptual in theory. You could do the first two, concept and premise, in your head, and most people do. Once you get to the third, all but the most gifted need to turn to the written word. This takes time. You’ll have to devote enough time to fill upwards of 200 pages, or 50,000+ words, with riveting content.   

Time is the biggest and incompressible aspect of a book project. You just can’t get around needing time to finish it. And where does it come from? You have to make it if you are going to succeed. 

Imagine a book to be a painting. Some will start with a rough sketch outline. This is the concept. Them you might fill it in with the broadest shapes and colors. This is the premise. Then you need to fill in all the details until the painting is polished and ready to be seen. Depending on the size and intricacy of the painting, this process can take a lot of time. 

Do not underestimate the commitment it will take to realize your story. It might take learning new software, editing of multiple drafts in an iterative fashion, and the physical time it takes getting your words into digital format. Many famous authors, like James Patterson, only write on paper. Paper drafts can be typed up, and luckily now it is possible to save more time by using voice to text software and expert transcription. 

A Catapult

Any book that you finish is a grand personal achievement in itself, but if your goal is publication, the next thing you need to do is get it out the door. A book languishing on your night table will be of use to no one except you. You need a catapult of some sort to fling it off your desk and into the wider world where it can be seen and read independent of you. This catapult, also known as a publisher, can be of the traditional type or it can now be you. Self-publishing is an increasingly viable path, and there are many ways of achieving success as a DIY author. No matter what path you chose, you have to embrace it to get to the final finish line. 

Self-confidence   

One final element necessary to the creation of any published book is resolution. Without it, you may falter at any step along the way. The road to a published book is likely a multi-year one, and while you want it to be all roses that you can stop and smell, it will have its fair share of thorns as well. You will need an adequate dose of self-confidence to get from start to finish. Finishing means possessing the mental fortitude not to give up under internal or external pressures until you reach the end.  The Script Lab is expanding on it’s writing in other formats content with more info about what you need to write a book. This post first appeared on the BookBaby Blog. Reposted with permission. From eBook conversion to print on demand, from cover design to editing and distribution, BookBaby provides independent authors the services and solutions to get self-published. The BookBaby Blog features hundreds of posts to get you motivated to write, on the right track to publish, and in touch with the dynamic world of self-publishing.   

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Dr. Dawn Field is a book lover interested in what makes great writing. After a 20 year career as a research scientist, her first book, Biocode, was published by Oxford University Press. Now a columnist of The Double Helix, Dr. Field is exploring new writing venues and writing a second book. Based in Virginia, Dr. Field is looking to collaborate with a range of fiction writers as a writing coach, editor, and consultant on the publishing process: fiedawn@gmail.com.

Source: Script Lab[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:32+00:00 January 10th, 2017|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: Moana is a Refreshing Breeze of Enchantment

In Moana’s signature musical sequeway, the titular heroine discovers hidden relics of her ancestor’s ships as she bangs an ancient drum, which swoops her into a majestic vision. She witnesses her ancestors sailing across the sea to the tune of a goosebump-inducing epic song number “We Sail the Way” that rivals “The Circle of Life.” Like Moana’s rediscovery of a past, the film revives the tradition of the musical princess story. But just because Moana is a momentary return to an old artform, it does not make it out-of-date.

If Frozen and Tangled served as the prototypes of Disney’s CGI potential in the fairy tale or mythical realms, Moana is the fully-realized one. It’s a fresh break from the modernized Big Hero 6 and Zootopia.

The film opens on an ancient South Pacific world and its young princess protagonist Moana (voiced winningly by newcomer Auli’I Cravalho) as she heeds an Earth origin story: A wily demigod Maui (Dwayne Johnson) snatches the stone-heart of the Gaia-esque Goddess and unleashes a gradual decay of the world’s resources. 

Young Moana is not the first of the Disney princesses who is deeply conscious of impending queenhood, a relatively new subject matter in the discourse of Disney princesses. But she signifies a major stride in depiction of queenhood. Unlike Merida, her story does not contain the rudiments of love interests or the wariness of upcoming marriage. Like Elsa, she does confront the anxiety of leadership and stares at her headdress, her essential crown, with hesitation. Her sea quest represents both her pursuit of freedom beyond her village and her maturation as a budding leader.

Like all high-spirited Disney princesses, she has her eyes on the horizons beyond the safety reefs. But through a chorus of song verses, her chieftain father and her people reel her back to her royal commitments. Despite her yearning for beyond the horizon of the island, she does truly want to stay for her beloved people and forge her own happiness there.

But then comes a time where she needs to leave as her people’s food source mysteriously dissolves. She finds that the unpredictability of the waves is beyond her comfort zone. Although she is literally allied with the ocean, almost an animated character in itself, can gesture hints and intervene, it also settles back at appropriate moments where Moana has to earn her own experience.

She journeys out to recruit the aide of Maui. Bearing tattooed-recordings of past feats (and perhaps one of Disney’s darkest origin story since the Hunchback of Notre Dame), the demigod Maui is a muscle-bearing egomaniacal Promethian-messiah whose feats had been done in the name of worshipped by mortals.  He becomes her beguiled sailing mentor who teaches her to read the stars to find her direction.

He also has a tiny tattooed replica of him that serves as fundamentally the stand-in of a conscience-angel-on-the-shoulder (except on his chest) that constantly reminds him of his good side.

Both Moana and Maui sail into deathtraps, including the adorably menacing tiny coconut-shelled pirates who partake a breathtaking chase sequence with an ingenuity almost like “Mad Max: On the Sea, Disney Edition!”

Years ago, I considered myself disappointed with debunked rumors that Moana would not be heavily designed in the medium-blending like in the Disney’s Paperman hand-drawn-blended-with-CGI short. Luckily, the solidness of the CGI here does wonders for rendering the lush texture and the blockiness of details. The animators resourcefully play with every expressive stream as Maui’s body tattoos dance in an animated life on its own to accompany the beats of his tales.

Like the recent Kubo and the Two Strings, Moana serves as the embodiment of the mythical, rooted in its Polynesian roots. I can forgive its few trips into the clichés of cartoony slapstick, a few gratuitous winks at its Disney trademarks (with Maui vocalizing Moana’s status as a princess with a cute animal sidekick), and more-forced-than-funny anachronistic allusions (see the “Tweet” joke or the remarks about high-fives), but even compared to its princess-movies predecessors Tangled and Frozen (considered beloved films not without faults), Moana bears a sharper restraint on these troublesome tropes and remains anchored in its cultural edges and the consistency of the musical cultural carvings—the notable exception is a campy David Bowie-esque song number of a enemy. Moana is contentedly clear-cut and woven in familiar Disney and Five-Act Structure school-script beats but saturated with breath to float it above the formulaic surface. It also designs a shrewd twist, as now per the norm in previous modern Disney films for better or worse, and in this case, for a thematic coming-of-age resonance and a mythical punctuation.

With electric lyrics and reverberating drum-laden score whipped up by Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, Moana presents its lyrical chops in articulating the tribal philosophies, familial bonds, the affirmation of identity, and the balance between obligations and wants. Although most would consider Manuel-Miranda’s labor as the usual ear-worms, I liken his music as more of a divine echo where its memorability isn’t in the catchiness of beats but rather the resonance of rhymes and meaning. 

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Moana serves as something of an animated blessing this holiday season. The heroine comprehends the primal desire to venture into the new while also holding her origins close to her heart. Mirroring this strong princess’s epiphany, this narrative revers the ancient and the forward-techniques of animation. In an already great year for Disney animation, this movie proves to be their watershed.

____

Caroline Cao is a Houstonian Earthling surviving under the fickle weather of Texas. When she’s not angsting over her first poetry manuscript or a pilot screenplay about space samurais, she’s doing cheesy improv performances for BETA Theater, experimenting with ramen noodles, or hollering vocal flash fics on Instagram. Her columns and poems have popped up on The Cougar, Mosaics: The Independent Women Anthology, Glass Mountain, OutLoud Culture, and Aletheia. Her flash fiction recently earned an Honorable Mention title in Sweater Weather magazine. She has her own Weebly portfolio and contributes to Birth.Movies.Death

Source: Script Lab[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:36+00:00 December 4th, 2016|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: Edge of Seventeen is a Teen Comedy Masterpiece

            Edge of Seventeen represents one of those rare occasions in which a movie manages to have it all: a pitch-perfect trifecta of great screenwriting, amazing performances, and precise direction. And while the film’s subject matter is nothing new or revolutionary – we’ve all seen movies about the trials and tribulations of high school life – the difference here lies in the execution. It’s clear from the very beginning of the film, which opens with a dark and humorous exchange between Steinfeld and her exasperated history teacher (played marvelously by Woody Harrelson), that we’re in something special – and the final product doesn’t disappoint.

           Steinfeld shines as Nadine, proving that her acting extends beyond the already impressive range she showcased in True Grit. She handles both humor and drama flawlessly. With her in the lead, the movie is able to balance both humor and drama perfectly, delivering dramatic intensity one moment, and outlandish wit the next. As one might expect, Harrelson proves the perfect foil to Steinfeld’s over-dramatic sentiments in several scenes that encapsulate this balancing act perfectly.  

            What separates this movie from many others of this genre is its brutal honesty and straightforward wit. Often in order to experience a film with such a remarkable script, you’re limited mostly to independent cinema. Yet, here’s a movie with the resources to hire actors that allows the filmmakers to elevate the mateiral to a mainstream level, without sacrificing performance. The film never delves into melodrama because the characters are all naturalistic and have a certain maturity that many mainstream films lack. Hayden Szeto, who plays Erwin in the movie has a crush on the protagonist and throughout the film she insults him to painful yet humorous effect. Szeto does an excellent job at portraying the clueless and terribly uncomfortable teenager. Even though he is hit by a barrage of insults unknowingly committed by Steinfeld, he remains mature about it. He never becomes irate and there is no forced conflict and instead he even jokes around.

            If I had any complaint it would be a minor one at best. Blake Jenner who plays the protagonist’s brother seemed a little too old for the part. He’s quite tall and muscular which makes him stand out from the rest of the cast. Yet, I cannot in good conscious hold the film at fault for this detail since he delivers a more than convincing performance. He conveys that a very special sort of charisma and maturity that manages to infuriate his sister perfectly in nearly every scene. Together, the pair manages to develop a near flawless sibling dynamic.

            This film is by far and away the greatest depiction of high school life to hit cinemas in recent years – perhaps one of the greatest of all time. It’s able to be dramatic and comedic while never sacrificing the depth of the characters. Steinfeld as the lead shows an incredible acting range and an assured knack comedic timing. Regardless of personal taste, it’s likely that the trials and tribulations on display here will resonate with most audiences, which makes Edge of Seventeen easy to recommend. And if you’re a fan of cinema in general, it more than deserves a spot on your immediate must-watch list. 

Source: Script Lab

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:37+00:00 November 28th, 2016|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: Hacksaw Ridge is Anything But Rusty

Mel Gibson returns to directing after a ten-year hiatus with Hacksaw Ridge, a fact-based story of faith and violence surrounding a US Army medic who singlehandedly saved 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa without firing a single shot.

 

Former Amazing Spider-Man Andrew Garfield, last seen in the 2014 indie drama 99 Homes, stars as Desmond T. Doss, a conscientious objector whose efforts under enemy fire during World War II earned him the Medal of Honor.

 

The film’s balance of fervent belief and bloodletting falls well within Gibson’s filmography as a director; Braveheart (1995), The Passion of the Christ (2004), and Apocalypto (2006) cover similar thematic terrain. Gibson has been under the radar since 2006’s well-documented personal problems, although he has appeared in a handful of acting roles since 2010’s Edge of Darkness. 

 

That said, his strengths as an action filmmaker are anything but rusty. The lengthy battle portion of the film is clear to follow, even in its chaos, with graphic images – soldiers burning in flames, exposed entrails – that don’t seem gratuitous as much as the harsh reality of war. Blood droplets pelt soldiers like rain. The enemy fades in and out of smoke, and bullets ping off and crack through helmets. The cinematography, editing, and sound pack a surprising amount of suspense, no small feat considering audiences know the outcome.

 

This pragmatic tone creates a fitting tribute to the real Doss, a gentle, humble soul who died in 2006 at age eighty-seven. He appears in interview footage toward the film’s end, recounting battlefield moments such as how he kept praying, “Please, Lord, help me get one more.”

 

That matter-of-fact approach contrasts with the film’s first hour, which seems preachy as it establishes how Doss’s small-town Virginia upbringing shaped his convictions, then has him repeat them in one form or another. Once the Okinawa segment begins, however, this necessary groundwork enhances Doss’s heroics, already remarkable considering 1940s medicine and technology.

 

The script by Andrew Knight (The Water Diviner) and Robert Schenkkan (The Quiet American) depicts formative moments in Doss’s life before he discovers his medical calling and meets his future wife, Dorothy (Teresa Palmer of Lights Out), a nurse handling blood donations for the war effort. Their sweet courtship unfolds after a date to the movies with newsreels of the fighting abroad.

 

Doss follows his older brother (Nathaniel Buzolic of TV’s The Originals) into the military, saying he can’t let others risk their lives while he stays behind. As an unarmed medic, he reasons he can save lives instead of taking them. His father (Hugo Weaving), a psychologically wounded World War I veteran, and the Army find this incongruous. The brass first sends him to a psychiatrist and then a court martial over his refusal to handle a firearm. Along the way, those trying to wrap their minds around Doss’s beliefs beat him and berate him as a coward.

 

Does he think he’s superior to them? Can’t he just train with a gun and never touch it again? Why doesn’t he quit? The doe-eyed Garfield answers these questions and more with sincerity but not sanctimony and even a bit of humor. “I pray to God, and I like to think He hears me, but it’s not a conversation,” he says.

 

As Doss’s sergeant, Vince Vaughn isn’t as shake-in-the-boots intimidating as Louis Gossett Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman) or R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), but his jabs at Doss and the other soldiers land well. Also effective are Sam Worthington (Avatar, Everest), as Doss’s flinty captain, and Weaving, whose first appearance pouring out whiskey for his dead peers gives way to believable vicissitudes of anger and pain.

 

Once Doss and the others are on the ground in Okinawa, any bravado evaporates as the soldiers make their way to the front lines. Doss scrambles into and out of foxholes and behind cover, chasing cries of “Medic!” with morphine, tourniquets, and assurances—first with his unit and then alone after an air strike forces those not wounded off the ridge. The film doesn’t cast him as a saint in these moments but rather an ordinary man who became the answer to other soldiers’ prayers.

Source: Script Lab

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:38+00:00 October 30th, 2016|Categories: main|Tags: |

Review: The Girl on the Train is Competent but Derivative

Invoking comparisons can be a tricky thing – particularly when it comes to a film’s marketing. On the one hand, selling a film by recalling similar material can be incredibly effective when it comes to attracting audiences – but when the comparison being invoked is also superlative, you risk sullying a film’s word of mouth. The Girl on the Train suffers from such comparisons in style, concept, casting and even release date to 2014’s Gone Girl – a bigger, better film in every way. And yet such comparisons don’t offer a full picture of what The Girl on the Train does well – and not so well. Taken on its own merits, this is a dark and engaging mystery film, featuring compelling performances from an A-list cast, that suffers from identity issues and a rushed, genre-confused final act.

Most of the film, though, is engaging enough to warrant a viewing if only for the outstanding level of immersion Emily Blunt achieves in her role as the alcoholic, emotionally-unstable Rachel Watson. She is a distraught woman reeling from her divorce from Tom Watson (Justin Theroux) who is now re-married and has a baby with Anna (Rebecca Ferguson). This has her living like a zombie, commuting on a train in the same exact seat every day that passes by the home she once shared with Tom, and it’s through her performance that the film attempts to meaningfully comment on the tragic consequences of addiction and emotional abuse.

Then again, the real reason she’s glued to the seat is because of Megan (Haley Bennett) – their neighbor two houses down – who, to Rachel, seems perfectly happy: married, beautiful, and alluring in her mystique. This reminds Rachel of the joy of her former life, before her descent into her own personal demons, which soon leads to several invasions of privacy involving Tom and Anna’s new life.

Megan, meanwhile, has obvious shades of “Amazing Amy” from Gone Girl that are difficult to ignore. Like Amy, she’s written in the vain of an overused cliché: broken but beautiful. She’s blonde, bored by her suburban life, yet kept in place by the dependance of those around her. The perfect life Rachel thinks she sees is far from the truth. Fortunately, Haley Bennett plays her convincingly and director Tate Taylor doesn’t overstay her welcome due to the other thankfully nuanced characters that demand screen time. Megan becomes more and more believable as the film progresses, so much so that when she goes missing, the momentum of the film picks up naturally.

One of Girl on the Train’s strengths is in its balance between reality and the tidbits of memories Rachel tries to piece together. With her heavy drinking and a covered-up mystery, everyone, including Detective Riley (West Wing’s Allison Janney), finds her difficult to believe when she offers information regarding Megan – glimpsed from the train. The fast-paced editing, dark, grey tones, and the consistently heavy, melancholic pace add to the the film’s suspense by compelling us to learn more about Rachel’s character through our sympathy for her.

But while it does offer an intriguing mystery, that same melancholic pace never really amplifies or declines, leaving the film feeling fairly stagnant – especially when the plot tries to move along the rhythms of a thriller. It’s best to see it as a dark mystery drama anchored well by its ensemble cast – and yet, even then, it runs out of ideas by the final act when shocking revelations are made in a rushed, misconceived climactic showdown. 

After a final, emotional twist that sells the tragic consequences of Rachel’s demons, the film reduces itself to a melodramatic soap opera in which characters don’t act believably nor contribute to the film’s suspense. While the twists, acting and cinematography are alluring enough to make you care deeply for all involved, the final 15 minutes may change how you feel about the film as a whole.  

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Neither this year’s Gone Girl nor this year’s best thriller, The Girl on the Train is still a competently-made dark mystery clearly influenced by David Fincher’s unique stylings. However, it’s this influence in and of itself that threatens to undo the strength of its own story – especially after the climactic showdown proves underwhelming.

Source: Script Lab[/fusion_builder_column][/fusion_builder_row][/fusion_builder_container]

By | 2017-04-17T15:25:42+00:00 October 20th, 2016|Categories: main|Tags: |