Interview (Part 3): Elizabeth Oyebode (2016 Nicholl Winner)

My 6-part chat with the writer of the winning script “Tween the Ropes”.

Elizabeth Oyebode wrote the original screenplay “Tween the Ropes” which won a 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Elizabeth about her background, her award-winning script, the craft of screenwriting, and what winning the Nicholl has meant to her.

Today in Part 3 of a 6 part series to run each day through Saturday, Elizabeth and I discuss some of the themes weaving through her script “Tween the Ropes” and how she chose the sport of double dutch jump-roping:

Scott: I was on the fence about asking you this, but since you’ve been talking about Nidi’s like a rock and then, some other times, she’s more like a leaf. I’m going to throw this out to you. [laughs]

The toolbox and the fact that she is this resident manager or superintendent of the building, and actually Nidi even does some repairs around the thing. The toolbox is actually in the last scene. I’m wondering, were you going for some sort of symbolic or metaphorical thing about repair? The family needs repair or under repair, or was that just an extension of the job and has no deeper meaning?

Elizabeth: Of course, it’s a story about a broken family and whether or not they have the tools to mend themselves on their own. The toolbox entered in because I thought it was very important to highlight externally this idea that all this family really has to do to get itself on the road to repair is to stop turning a blind eye, to look to themselves.

By addressing some family conflicts head on, taking the hammer and banging it into the nail. Instead of the alternative, you know, keeping the box locked, all those family secrets locked away.

Scott: The major complicating factor in the story, I think you would have to say in terms of character, is Frankie. The father who has rejoined the family after several years, he’s been away in prison.

Elizabeth: Yes, for three years.

Scott: He’s a rather loose cannon at times. Present, and then at times not around. There are occasions where you see a paternal side to him, though pretty largely, I’d say, very toward narcissism because it’s all about his own experience, but there are other times where he’s increasingly drawn toward negative impulses born out of his own desperation and drug dependency.

How did that character emerge in this process? Was that early on that you had that father figure, or is that something that evolved over time?

Elizabeth: The father figure was there from the beginning. He was central to the dynamic of the family bond and, of course, to the plot.

Scott: You’ve got a couple of other people. There’s Old Lady Smith, who lives in the same apartment building. She’s got a rather negative view of Nidi.

Elizabeth: She does. I wrote Old Lady Smith in to introduce a generational perspective on self-imposed limits and denial. She strongly disapproves of Nidi’s aspirations. Again, I think that speaks to her own life experience and perhaps not being given opportunities herself.

And, now, to see this next generation of child daring to ask for things really gets under her skin because, of course, no one bothered asking her and she never got the chance to ask. I really wanted to explore the questions of who deserves love and how much of it do they deserve, and who deserves opportunity and how much of it do they deserve.

Scott: Then there’s Mr. Yee, the next door neighbor who opens up love in a very disturbing way for Nidi. I don’t want to get into that terribly much because I don’t want to give away where that goes ‑‑ in sum, that little world inside that building.

If we say that the best way to create an emotional connection with the script reader and audience member is give them a sympathetic protagonist, then you succeed 10 times over in your script because Nidi is all that. Her personality, her potential, her intelligence, her grit, her determination and then, amidst all this other stuff around her, you’re really, really grabbed by this character. And all of ten years old.

Elizabeth: Thank you. Yes, there’s this intellectually unsupportive environment for her at home and, of course, this mixed bag at school, and, in both settings, everyone’s just trying to get by, to get from one day to the next. These are the examples that she’s presented with for what adults are like. Right?

Scott: Right.

Elizabeth: Then, of course, she’s looking at her classmates and just trying to figure out…As you said, she’s an outsider. She’s just trying to figure out how she fits in to all of this, because her needs and wants are being dismissed over and over again.

There’s no real reason given as to why, especially because most of these desires are not particularly complex. The conflicts that lay before her are very challenging given, as you said, she seems to have an internal strength that a lot of the characters she encounters don’t possess.

Scott: There’s that. Then there’s this, as we’ve said earlier, surrogate family, this double dutch jump-roping team led by Miss Harper. Why that particular sport? How’d that come about?

Elizabeth: It’s interesting in that it’s this three‑pronged reliance system. The person that’s center stage is the jumper in the middle and then there’s these two turners who have to mirror each other to help ensure the jumper’s success.

It’s this team dynamic that I think is really unusual in sports. Typically, it’s either a bigger team or one person. In this, there’s three people, occasionally four or five, but three people who really have to work together. I wanted to portray what might happen when one of those people is the bully and the other is the one getting bullied.

Scott: That’s interesting because, again, if we’re going to talk about physical objects with potential symbolic meaning, a rope can be a useful tool. You can climb a rope. You can also get tripped up in the jumping, which is what one of the bullies does to Nidi.

You can also be strangled by a rope. The title of the script is “Tween the Ropes,” so there’s something symbolic going on there, yeah?

Elizabeth: Absolutely. It’s a constant balancing act for Nidi. When she’s jumping between these ropes, there’s this constant wavering, one foot going up and the other going down. I wanted to convey that feeling of swaying back and forth, not really knowing whether the ground beneath you was firm enough to stand on.

There’s a scene as well in which the ropes take on this cocoon shape because they are turning so quickly. I employed that imagery because a cocoon is supposed to be this safe space in which a caterpillar can grow strong enough to transform then break free. But, until that is possible, it has to be encased in this shell.

For Nidi, this sport is the closest thing she has to that shell.

Tomorrow in Part 4, Elizabeth talks about what it was like to win the Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

For Part 2, here.


Interview (Part 3): Elizabeth Oyebode (2016 Nicholl Winner) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

Script Analysis: “Kubo and the Two Strings” — Part 3: Characters

Read the script for the acclaimed animated movie and discuss this week.

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this bi-weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Dialogue
Saturday: Takeaways

Today: Characters.

Characters are the players in our stories. They participate in scenes, move the plot forward through action and dialogue, influence each other, evolve and change. Each has their own distinct backstory, personality, world view, and voice. When a writer does their best, digging deep into their characters, tapping into their souls, the players in our stories magically lift up off the printed page and come to life in a reader’s imagination.

Today we discuss the characters in the script for Kubo and the Two Strings. You may download a copy of the script here. You may also watch the movie on Netflix. A list of the key characters:

Kubo
Monkey
Moon King
The Sisters
Beetle
Sariatu
Hanzo

Screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes.

IMDb plot summary: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

Writing Exercise: Think about each character. What’s their function? How do their roles interrelate?

Major kudos to Nikki Syreeta for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for Kubo and the Two Strings, go here.

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown, go here.

For Part 2, to read the Major Plotline Points, go here.

Tomorrow: We reflect on themes.

Seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in the RESPONSE section about this week’s script: Kubo and the Two Strings.


Script Analysis: “Kubo and the Two Strings” — Part 3: Characters was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

Script Analysis: “Kubo and the Two Strings” — Part 2: Plot

Read the script for the acclaimed animated movie and discuss this week.

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this bi-weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Dialogue
Saturday: Takeaways

Today: Plot.

In every scene, something happens. A plot point is a scene or group of scenes in which something major happens, an event that impacts the narrative causing it to turn in a new direction.

A relevant anecdote. Years ago, I was on the phone with a writer discussing a script project. My son Will, who was about four years old at the time, must have been listening to me talking about “plot points” during the conversation because after I hung up, he asked, “Daddy, what’s a plop point?”

That’s in effect what a plot point is. It’s an event that ‘plops’ into the narrative and changes its course. So when you think Plot Point, think Plop Point!

The value of this exercise:

  • To identify the backbone of the story structure.
  • To examine each major plot point and see how it is effective as an individual event.
  • To analyze the major plot points in aggregate to determine why they work together as the central plot.

This week: Kubo and the Two Strings. You may download a copy of the script here. You may also watch the movie on Netflix.

Screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes.

IMDb plot summary: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown of Kubo and the Two Strings and identify the major plot points. Post your thoughts in comments and we’ll see if we can come up with a consensus.

Major kudos to Nikki Syreeta for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for Kubo and the Two Strings, go here.

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown, go here.

Tomorrow we shift our focus to the script’s key characters.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in the RESPONSE section about this week’s script: Kubo and the Two Strings.


Script Analysis: “Kubo and the Two Strings” — Part 2: Plot was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

Interview (Part 2): Elizabeth Oyebode (2016 Nicholl Winner)

My 6-part chat with the writer of the winning script “Tween the Ropes”

2016 Nicholl winners: Justin Piasecki, Michele Atkins, Elizabeth Oyebode, Lloyd Harvey, Spencer Harvey, Geeta Malik

Elizabeth Oyebode wrote the original screenplay “Tween the Ropes” which won a 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Elizabeth about her background, her award-winning script, the craft of screenwriting, and what winning the Nicholl has meant to her.

Today in Part 2 of a 6 part series to run each day through Saturday, Elizabeth and I delve into her script “Tween the Ropes”.

Scott: How did you make that transition into screenwriting?

Elizabeth: After college ‑‑ I think I told you this before ‑‑ I became a stand‑up comedian in the Washington, DC area and I loved it, but a lot of my bits weren’t really bits. They were stories. They were much more expansive. A few people commented that I should perform a one‑woman show just because my sets were almost like an episode of TV.

That’s when I started thinking differently about it. I was trying to write this one‑woman show. Then I just started thinking about plays. Then I saw a book about screenwriting, opened it up, and…

Scott: Here we are.

Elizabeth: Yep.

Scott: Once you discovered the screenwriting, that was it?

Elizabeth: Absolutely it. Then I read as many scripts as possible from the library and online. And I read Syd Field, Chris Vogler, Joseph Campbell. I really loved understanding the psychology behind it.

Scott: Read some books, and then reading scripts and writing pages, that was pretty much your education?

Elizabeth: Yes. I entered the occasional competition for feedback but, for the most part, it was reading and writing. Your blog is such a great repository of information as well.

Scott: Let’s talk about the script “Tween the Ropes,” a compelling drama that won the 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting.

Here’s a plot summary: “A brainy, young double dutcher contends with the hardships of her life in inner-city Baltimore.” The final words in the script, at least the version I’ve read is a card. It says, “For a real Nidi,” the name of the story’s protagonist. Is this story based on an actual person you know or an amalgamation of characters?

Elizabeth: It’s inspired by a person I knew and several I have read about.

Scott: Nidi Toth, a 10‑year‑old girl, how would you describe her as a character?

Elizabeth: She’s intelligent, resourceful, and determined but also wary of external conflict. I think, for her, there’s this pride of being a rock for her family and her brother in particular. But, at the same time, when she’s outside of her home, she becomes much more like a leaf and subject to the whims of her outer environment.

Scott: She’s growing up in an impoverished neighborhood. There’s the threat of violence all around. You have to live with that, literally. In the apartment complex she’s in, I remember there’s a scene where she’s talking early on to someone about how you’ve got to stay away from the windows. It’s that kind of an environment.

There is that dualistic thing where with her family, she applies one mask. That kind of, as you said, rock, but when she’s outside and in the world with the vicissitudes of life out there, it’s interesting you say she’s more like a leaf.

Elizabeth: It’s a tough environment in which to grow up. It’s one that I wanted to explore from the point of view of a character who gets left in the background often in films.

I wanted to have an audience see the world through her eyes and to feel what she feels on a daily basis, see what her highs and lows might be like, rather than just seeing her as this, maybe, cliché ‑‑ a little black girl jumping double dutch. I wanted them to see her as a three‑dimensional, complicated human being with hopes and dreams, but also these realities and worries.

Scott: Let’s look at the family unit, and then we’ll expand out and consider the surrogate family, which she has at school with the double dutch thing. She has a younger brother, Wayne, who’s seven. They have an interesting relationship.

Generally speaking, Nidi acts much like a mother in protecting him and making sure he has something to eat, but there other times where he jumps to her defense. Could you maybe talk a bit about that sibling relationship between the two of them?

Elizabeth: It’s an interesting symbiosis. They have just each other to depend on for much of the script. Even though Nidi is a bit worried about her brother’s intellectual capabilities, she relies on him for emotional support and, to a certain extent, to keep her grounded and focused on getting through the day.

For Wayne, I think she serves more as a mother figure, a stalwart support system where, without her in his existence, I’m not sure that he’d be able to make it on his own. There’s a connection that keeps them wanting to fight for and be there for one another. They’re always thinking of each other.

Scott: They’ve been forced to by virtue of not only their local environment, but specifically the relationship that they have with their mother and father. Mom is 26. She’s known as Mom‑mom. How would you describe her as a character?

Elizabeth: Mom-mom is physically present for them, but she’s also rather neglectful and unwilling to listen to their needs or their interests. I think some of what she brings to the table as a mother is a consequence of her getting pregnant at such an early age. As a result, she often uses humor to mask a feeling of helplessness and uncertainty.

Also, she knows what it looks like to have one’s hopes dashed and she prefers to be the one to shut Nidi and Wayne down almost out of a desire to protect them. So she’s flawed but not a lost cause.

Scott: And she works a lot.

Elizabeth: Yes, very hard‑working. She’s the resident manager and handles all the maintenance for the building. She has another job working at a fast food restaurant. That’s true.

I think that added dimension of her working so much highlights that though she can’t be a wholly positive figure, she can contribute in the way she knows best. In this case, it’s either financially or just by feeling like, “I go to work. I do my job. Therefore, I’m a good mother.” The emotional component doesn’t really factor in.

Tomorrow in Part 3, Elizabeth and I discuss some of the themes weaving through her script “Tween the Ropes” and how she chose the sport of double dutch jump-roping.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.


Interview (Part 2): Elizabeth Oyebode (2016 Nicholl Winner) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

Interview (Part 1): Elizabeth Oyebode (2016 Nicholl Winner)

My 6-part chat with the writer of the winning script “Tween the Ropes”

Elizabeth Oyebode wrote the original screenplay “Tween the Ropes” which won a 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Elizabeth about her background, her award-winning script, the craft of screenwriting, and what winning the Nicholl has meant to her.

Today in Part 1 of a 6 part series to run each day through Saturday, Elizabeth talks about moving to Nigeria as a child and how that influenced her to write stories about outsiders, and how her background studying physics has been relevant to her screenwriting.

Scott Myers: Elizabeth, I’d like to start toward the end of the journey, for this particular interview. The night you received the 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting Award, in your acceptance speech you said this ‑‑ “We watch films because our curious minds seek connection, higher truths and adventure.”

I was really struck by that, because I think it’s such a great way to describe the draw that movies have for an audience. Connection, higher truth and adventure. I was wondering, could you elaborate on that. How did you come to that way of thinking about it and what does that mean to you?

Elizabeth Oyebode: After I was born in America, my family moved to Nigeria for a few years. When I moved back here as a little kid, I didn’t speak English, so I felt really disconnected from my surroundings.

Watching films re-introduced me to how people here speak and interact, much more so, actually, than how real people interact. [laughs] And they helped open my eyes to what was possible and to what, in the end, matters most in life.

Scott: Do you remember some of those movies from your childhood that were most particularly evocative, ones you remember the most?

Elizabeth: Oh, yes. Usually, the name Spielberg is in the credits.

[laughter]

Elizabeth: “E.T.,” is the first film that I watched. It still gets me because I could relate to the feeling E.T. had of being displaced from his planet. [laughs] I felt that way too.

“The Color Purple” was another one that really resonated with me. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” as well. Each one is epic in its own way. Each is a visual wonderland that lures you into thinking bigger than yourself.

Scott: That reference to “E.T.,” the fact that that’s the first movie you remember seeing. A pretty remarkable film to see as your first film. Julia Chasman, the producer who gave you the award at the Nicholl ceremony said when you came back to the United States, it was almost like you felt like an immigrant in your homeland.

I was wondering if that impacted you in terms of a special affinity or connection to writing characters who are, in a way, outsiders set apart from the others. Of course E.T. is an outsider. He’s like an immigrant on Earth while he’s here, right?

Elizabeth: Yes. I do tend to write about outsiders who are singular in their abilities or misfits who defy expectations. I’m sure that relates to feeling like an outsider at such a young age.

Scott: You mentioned, too, in your comments at the Nicholl ceremony you spent a lot of time daydreaming as a child and that at some point, you discovered you could put those images into words and create things. Is that how you got into writing?

Elizabeth: It is. I got into so much trouble for daydreaming during classes. I didn’t really come to the realization that I could channel my imagination into words and have that be my career until I was into my 20s probably.

Scott: My wife does research on this and has written some articles. They call it mind wandering now, that’s the preferred term to daydreaming. Scientists think it’s incredibly important for the creative process that we allow ourselves that freedom to let our mind wander.

Elizabeth: Absolutely, and I wish I could’ve told that to my teachers back then.

[laughter]

Scott: It wasn’t until your 20s when you made this connection about writing? Where’d you go to college?

Elizabeth: I went to Tufts. There wasn’t a film program, but I did first learn about a number of films while I was there. For instance, Stanley Kubrick films such as “A Clockwork Orange” and “Dr. Strangelove.” That was a kaboom kind of moment for me that you were even allowed to approach film in such a dystopian fashion. It really expanded my thinking.

I actually majored in physics with a minor in history, and part of the reason I loved physics was because there’s an order to how the universe works. A structure. At the time, I found that really compelling and it just gave me comfort.

Scott: That’s an interesting observation that you were drawn to physics initially, in some respects because of its structure, the appeal of structure when, of course, screenwriting, screenplays, is one of the more heavily structured narrative forms. Maybe you had a natural affinity for it.

Elizabeth: Oh, yes. I have this background in science and editing, so when I first started screenwriting I was very exacting, analytical, and rigid. Although there are aspects to screenwriting that require that high degree of structure, there’s this other side to it.

It’s the side that, as a kid, I craved — the creative side, the possibilities. I think it’s one of those careers where you get to utilize both left brain and right brain.

Here is video of Elizabeth accepting her 2016 Nicholl Award in December of last year:

Tomorrow in Part 2, Elizabeth and I delve into her script “Tween the Ropes”.

I had the good fortune to work as mentor with Elizabth in a 2015 Black List Lab for Screenwriters in San Francisco. You can read her reflections on that experience here.


Interview (Part 1): Elizabeth Oyebode (2016 Nicholl Winner) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

Script Analysis: “Kubo and the Two Strings” — Part 1: Scene By Scene Breakdown

Read the script for the acclaimed animated movie and discuss this week.

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this bi-weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Dialogue
Saturday: Takeaways

Today: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown. Here is my take on this exercise from a previous series of posts — How To Read A Screenplay:

After a first pass, it’s time to crack open the script for a deeper analysis and you can do that by creating a scene-by-scene breakdown. It is precisely what it sounds like: A list of all the scenes in the script accompanied by a brief description of the events that transpire.

For purposes of this exercise, I have a slightly different take on scene. Here I am looking not just for individual scenes per se, but a scene or set of scenes that comprise one event or a continuous piece of action. Admittedly this is subjective and there is no right or wrong, the point is simply to break down the script into a series of parts which you then can use dig into the script’s structure and themes.

The value of this exercise:

  • We pare down the story to its most constituent parts: Scenes.
  • By doing this, we consciously explore the structure of the narrative.
  • A scene-by-scene breakdown creates a foundation for even deeper analysis of the story.

This week: Kubo and the Two Strings. For those who may have missed this wonderful animated movie (current IMDb rating: 7.9), here is a great chance to check it out. You may download a copy of the script here. You may also watch the movie on Netflix.

Screenplay by Marc Haimes and Chris Butler, story by Shannon Tindle and Marc Haimes.

IMDb plot summary: A young boy named Kubo must locate a magical suit of armor worn by his late father in order to defeat a vengeful spirit from the past.

Kubo and the Two Strings
Scene-by-scene breakdown
By Nikki Syreeta
GoIntoTheStory.blcklst.com

P 1 An angry ocean tries to sink a small fishing boat. The WOMAN, with a bundle tied to her back, on the boat plays a shamisen, a stringed instrument, to control the waves and safely make it to shore. A child narrator tells us to pay attention. “No matter how unusual it may seem.”

P 2 A huge wave tosses the woman out of the boat, onto the shore where she is knocked unconscious. The bundle begins crying, waking her up. It’s a baby with one eye. This is KUBO. The narrator tells us Kubo’s grandfather stole something from him, eluding to his eye.

P 3 The first face we see is of a monkey, a tiny carved wooden charm. Kubo is now 10 and lives in a cave. He cleans up dozens of pieces of wrinkled paper scattered around the cave. He also takes care of his mother. She is old and feeble.

P 4–5 Kubo and his mother eat breakfast. Kubo works with the wrinkled paper by the shore. He makes origami animals and figures. He’s an expert. A bell chimes in the distance and Kubo gathers his papers and heads to town.

P 5–6 We are introduced to Kubo’s townspeople and Kameyo, an old homeless woman, who befriends Kubo. It’s a lively market, full of people. This is where Kubo finds his audience.

P 7–10 Kubo captures the people’s attention with a story full of magic. “If you must blink, do it now!” His wrinkled paper becomes moving origami characters in his story of Hanzo, a samurai on a quest to fight the Moon King. Hanzo can only defeat the Moon King with a magical suit of armor made up of three pieces: the Sword Unbreakable, The Breastplate Impenetrable, and the Helmet Invulnerable.

The crowd is entranced by Kubo’s story and his origami “puppets”.

P 11 A gong sounds as the sun begins to sets. Kubo stops….without finishing the story. Kubo leaves the market and hurries back to his cave.

P 12–13 As Kubo and his mother have dinner she tells him the same story of Hanzo, but more personal, this story is true. We learn that Hanzo was Kubo’s father. The Moon King is his Grandfather and he stole Kubo’s eye. His mother warns him to be cautious.

P 14 While Kubo sleeps, his mother has a nightmare. Now we see how the paper gets scattered all around the cave. We also see the how fragile his mother is.

P 14–21 While at the market the next day, Kubo learns of a ritual the townspeople use to contact the dead. Kubo heads to the cemetery and creates an origami lantern for his father to light, if he comes. He waits for his father to answer, but his lantern never lights. Kubo doesn’t notice it’s getting dark outside.

P 21–23 As Kubo waits, he hears a voice call his name. Suddenly, THE SISTERS, the ones his mother warned him about, come and chase him through the town. He calls for help. The sisters lay waste to the town, burning it to the ground. He races back to his cave, but before he can make it, he falls and the sisters are upon him. Shadow demons surround him.

P 24 Suddenly, his mother pulls out his shamisen and strikes the strings, scaring off the demons. She smacks the beetle crest on the back of his robe and wings emerge and carry him from danger. He watches as the sisters battle his mother. But before the battle is over, the robe covers his eyes.

P 25 The next face we see is MONKEY as she wakes Kubo up as a blizzard blows around them. She looks curiously like his monkey charm from earlier. She tells him they must leave before the Sisters come back. She puts Kubo on her back and races through the snow to find shelter.

P 26–30 The duo make a whale carcass shelter for the night and Kubo has questions. Monkey only allows him three. Monkey reveals the she is the monkey charm Kubo always had. Monkey tells Kubo that his mother was very powerful and used the last of her magic to save him and bring monkey to life.

P 30–34 While Kubo sleeps he calls out to his father and his paper forms a small Hanzo. He impatiently tries to get Kubo and Monkey to follow him. It seems their quest has begun. The trio ventures through foothills to the cliffside.

P 35–37 The trio comes across colossal statues on the cliffside. As they traverse the rocky cliffs, Kubo disappears into one of the huge eye sockets. Monkey follows she as Kubo is dragged away by a “creature”. It’s a giant beetle. Part human, part bug. Monkey wants to kill it, but Kubo stops her. “It just wanted Hanzo.”

P 38–40 BEETLE reveals that Hanzo used to be his master, but he was cursed and lost his memory. He was a samurai in Hanzo’s army. Kubo tells him Hanzo was his father. Beetle pledges his life to help Kubo find the Sword Unbreakable and promises he’ll be useful. Monkey is unimpressed.

P 41–42 As they explore the labyrinth of tunnels, Kubo tells Beetle how they ended up on this journey. Hanzo slips through a crack in the wall. When they break through they find a giant relief carved into the wall. Kubo probes the carving and releases a trapdoor in the floor. The trio falls into….

P 42–45 A huge chamber full of old bones. In the middle, a giant disembodied skeleton hand holds THE SWORD UNBREAKABLE! Kubo runs to get it, but Monkey holds him back. Beetle manages to get it, but causes the enormous bones to move and form a giant skeleton body. Fully formed it becomes an Odokuro. Monkey grabs the sword and tries to use it against the beast. It shatters into a thousand pieces. “It’s not the right sword, you idiot!” The beast grabs her.

P 45–46 Hanzo points to the sword stuck in the Odokuro’s skull. THAT’S the Sword Unbreakable. But in the glow of the flames shooting out its eyes, the trio sees DOZENS of swords stuck in his head. Beetle tries to stop the beast with arrows, but they have no effect. Monkey tries the swords from its head, they shatter to pieces. Just as Monkey is about to be dropped its mouth, a flock of paper birds circle the Odokuro’s head in an angry squall. The beast swats at the birds and stomps its feet in anger.

Kubo is almost crushed under its feet, but Beetle comes to the rescue and discovered he has wings as he flies Kubo out of harm’s way.

P 46–48 Kubo and Beetle fly up to the beast’s skull and pull sword after sword until they find the one that won’t move…..the Sword Unbreakable. Beetle is knocked out of the sky, leaving Kubo to retrieve the sword. Kubo manages to free the sword, but causes the skeleton to crumple to pieces. Beetle saves them all by flying them out of the Hall of Bones and they crash land onto the beach below.

P 49–52 Monkey tends to Beetle’s wounds as they argue about what to do next. “Crossing the lake is ridiculous.” While they argue Kubo forms an origami boat out of beach combed detritus. Monkey is impressed.

P 53–56 Our group has been sailing for quite some time. Beetle teaches Kubo how to shoot fish with a bow and arrow. After Monkey offers a better way to catch fish, Kubo tells Beetle about his mother and how he would take care of her and tell her stories. “When I told those stories, her eyes were mostly clear. I could tell she saw me.”

A crack of thunder interrupts the moment. A storm is coming. Monkey suggests going to shore, but Hanzo points into the dark waters. The second piece of armor, the BREASTPLATE IMPENETRABLE, is down there in the murky depths.

P 57 Beetle is set to jump in and get it, but Kubo stops him. Tells him there is a Garden of Eyes in Long Lake that stare into your soul and cause you to drown. Beetle jumps in anyway, ignoring Kubo’s warning.

P 58 Meanwhile, the Sisters realize Kubo and Monkey are on a quest to find the armor. They vow to stop them.

P 58–59 As the rain pours down, Kubo is worried about Beetle, who hasn’t surfaced yet. Monkey urges him to go to shore because it’s getting dark and the sisters are still out there. Before she can stop him, Kubo dives in after Beetle. Determined to help Kubo, Monkey grabs the swords and gets ready to follow, but something snatches her back on deck. A Sister has snagged her ankle with a chain. Monkey attacks!

P 59 Underwater, as Kubo searches for Beetle, a golden light shines through thick kelp. Kubo swims toward it and finds the Breastplate. He slides into it and it shrinks to fit his body. He swims for the surface but a giant eye transfixes Kubo. His body goes slacks as he stares directly into it.

P 60–62 Monkey fights for her life on the deck of the boat locked in a fierce battle with the Sister. Just as she get the upper hand, Beetle jumps back on the boat proudly displaying a fish skewered on his arrow. He doesn’t know Kubo jumped in after him. Monkey orders Beetle to go back and find Kubo.

P 62 Underwater, the Ningen drags Kubo deeper toward a giant mouth with razor sharp teeth surrounded by dozens of eyes. Suddenly, an arrow punctures the eye, breaking the trance. Beetle appears as Kubo runs out of air and passes out.

P 62–63 Meanwhile on the boat, Monkey and the Sister are still locked in a battle. The boats has been torn to shreds in the raging storm. Monkey manages a last bit of strength and deals a killing blow to Sister with the sword.

P 63–64 Beetle surfaces within Kubo. Finds Monkey floating on a piece of boat wreckage. He drags Kubo onto the wreckage. Monkey thinks Kubo is dead until pieces of the boat slowly reassemble. Kubo comes to and says the Ningen showed him that Monkey was his mother.

P 65–68 The group finds a cave and Kubo asks Monkey to explain. Monkey tells them the story of how she and his father met. As she tells the story, the objects in the cave come alive and form to illustrate her story. She and her sisters were sent down, by the Moon King, to kill any noble warrior who found the magical armor. He said anyone who found it would grow too powerful. She told Hanzo he must die and they fought. But when he looked into her eyes he stopped. “You are my quest.” She spared his life, they fell in love, and they had Kubo. But the Moon King found them and was angry at her betrayal.

P 69 Kubo falls asleep. Monkey tells Beetle, the magic keeping her here is fading and she’ll be gone soon. As before, Beetle pledges his life to keeping Kubo safe and reassures Monkey her story doesn’t end here. It will always be told through Kubo.

P 70–72 That night, Kubo dreams he’s playing by a river where he meets an old man playing a shamisen. The landscape shifts to show his father’s fortress. Inside the fortress is the last piece of armor, the helmet. “Follow the setting sun and you’ll find it.” The group sets out through the Farlands and hike through the mountains until they come to a ridge. Just passed the ridge they find the ruins of a once majestic island fortress.

P 72–77 Inside they find remnants of the past, dozens of scrolls, broken pieces of armor scattered across the floor. Suddenly, smoke seeps from the shattered armor and circles our heroes. It’s constricts them and hoists them into the air. The smoke is coming from the smoking pipe of the other Sister, who has been hiding, waiting for them. The Sister chastises Beetle for ripping apart their family by stealing her sister from her. She laughs as Monkey and Beetle realize that Beetle IS the real Hanzo and they stole his memories. “You’ve been together all this time and you haven’t even realized?”

P 77–79 The Sister turns her attention the Kubo, the one she came for. Kubo manages to slash her mask with his bachi pick, cracking it in half and breaking the pipe. The smoke disappears and the Sister throws Kubo across the courtyard in anger, knocking him unconscious. Monkey attacks but she is no match for the Sister. Kubo comes to and his father and mother move to protect him just as the Sister drives her sword deep into Beetle’s back, killing him. In a final attempt to save his mother, Kubo reaches for his shamisen and strikes it so hard two strings break. A blinding white light of sound swallows everything up!

P 79–80 Kubo opens his eye to find he’s in the courtyard, alone. His tears fall on the single string of his shamisen causing the shredded paper around him to form a tattered, flimsy Paper Hanzo, who isn’t giving up. He drags himself across the floor and points his sword. Kubo turns to see a illustration of the helmet impenetrable, only it looks like the bell in the village. Kubo packs his things and wraps Beetle’s bow string around his wrist alongside his mother’s bracelet. He stands in the middle of the courtyard with the frayed Beetle banners flapping in the wind. He strikes a single note on his last string as hard as he can. The beetle banners flutter violently, twist, and intertwine in Kubo’s robes forming a magnificent pair of wings. They lift him up and fly him out of the ruins.

P 81 Kubo’s wings fly him over the burned out town and land him next to the bell tower on central avenue. Kubo hits the crumbling tower until it falls, freeing the helmet. The villagers appear. Kubo tells hem to flee, the Moon King is coming. The villagers hurry toward the gate out of town. Kubo yells for his GRANDFATHER. When he appears, he’s the old man from Kubo’s dream dressed in a robe glowing in the moonlight.

P 82–85 Kubo accuses him of wanting to steal him other eye. Grandfather says he wants it so Kubo can live in the heavens with him. Kubo refuses and declares he will end this story by killing his Grandfather. The Moon King has had enough and gives Kubo a chance to battle the monster that ruined his life. His skin begins to change into a milky-like shell. His face begins to crack like glass. He spreads his arms and he breaks apart like cocoon becoming a serpent like monster. Kubo fights bravely, but he’s out matched as the beast crushes him between it’s jaws then spits him out. Kubo can’t defend himself as the beast squeezes him and flings him in the air like a rag doll.

P 85 Kubo crashes through branches and lands in the cemetery. As the Moon Beast smashes through the village toward him, Kubo reaches for his sword. But he sees the bow string and bracelet made of his mother’s hair on his wrist. He deftly uses them to restring his shamisen. The beast is upon him as he plucks a hair from his own head and strings it across the last space on his shamisen.

P: 86–87 He plucks the first string. The sound stops the Moon Beast in its tracks and ignites all the lanterns in the river. Kubo knows why the Moon Beast wants his eye. So he can’t look in another’s eyes and see their souls and their love. The beast taunts Kubo about taking away everything he loved. But Kubo is still defiant. “No. It’s in my memories. The most powerful kind of magic there is.”

He plucks the second string. All the villagers emerge from behind trees and grave markers. Their anterns glowing as they stand beside Kubo. He strikes the final string creating a sound that echoes endlessly. Joining Kubo’s army are spirits of the dead surrounded by an otherworldly blue light. The Moon Beast rears back to attack Kubo, but is deflected by the blue light. He tries again and again, each time the light grows stronger. Finally, Kubo strums all the strings at once. The blue light explodes giving way to blinding white light.

P:88–89 When the light dissipates, the sweet old man from Kubo’s dream stands before them. He’s confused and has no memory of who he is and what has happened. “I’ve seemed to have forgotten my story.” Kameyo offers to tell him everything he needs to know. “You are the kindest, sweetest man to ever live in the village.” All the villagers offer pieces to his new story.

P:90–92 As night falls, the last of the villagers leave the cemetery and Kubo assembles his new alter. He offers a prayer to his parents, thanking them for their wisdom, kindest, and love while on the journey. As he speaks the paper lanterns in the river light and begin refolding themselves into glowing blue herons as they rise up into the sky. Down on the riverbank below is Kubo standing between the spirits Hanzo and Mother.

Major kudos to Nikki Syreeta for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for Kubo and the Two Strings, go here.

For those folks who volunteer to write a scene-by-scene breakdown, beyond your name being noted here, my thanks, and your own personal dose of creative juju, you will learn something about story structure and further develop this important skill set.

Here is our current list of literary heroes and heroines!

A Monster Calls / Andrew Turner

Anthropoid / Marija Nielsen

Arrival / Ashish Chand

Captain Fantastic / Despina Karintis

Denial / Gina Gomez

Eye in the Skye / Bruce Gordon

Fences / Matt Cowley

The Founder / Eric Rodriguez

Hail, Caesar! / Brianne VanTuyle

Hell or High Water / Andrew Lightfoot

The Invitation / Joni Trumpold Brainerd

Jackie / Karen Dantas

Kubo and the Two Strings / Nikki Syreeta

La La Land / Priya Gopal

Loving / Liz Correal

Maggie’s Plan / Monique Mata

Manchester by the Sea / Ashley Lara

Miles Ahead / Alecia Hodges

Moonlight / Ryan Canty

My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 / Nikki Leydecker

The Secret Life of Pets / Paul Huffman

Victor Frankenstein / Lisa Gomez

Zootopia / Will King

Italics = Turned in scene-by-scene breakdown

Bold = Have used scene-by-scene breakdown in week-long analysis

Now is YOUR chance to contribute to this most worthy cause and provide an additional resource for the online screenwriting community.

Thanks, all!

Even if you do not participate in the analysis, discussion, or write up a scene-by-scene breakdown, I strongly encourage you to read these scripts.

So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in the RESPONSE section about this week’s script: Kubo and the Two Strings.


Script Analysis: “Kubo and the Two Strings” — Part 1: Scene By Scene Breakdown was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

Writing and the Creative Life: Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling (Part 2)

Freytag’s pyramid, Cortisol, Dopamine, and you!

In Part 1, we considered a Harvard Business Review article about the influence of stories on the brain. My thoughts on the article:

For years, I’ve used the term audience identification. Something about your story, most particularly involving your Protagonist, must resonate with a reader. What that boils down to is creating a sense of empathy on the part of the reader with at least one of your central characters. If you do that, you shrink the distance between the reader and the story universe you are creating. Indeed, the reader can begin to live vicariously through the experiences of the Protagonist, the degree of empathy so strong as to pull the reader into the story.

— —

It’s not enough to create empathy. Empathy does not necessarily translate into a compelling story. To do that, we need to craft a narrative that involves some sense of tension. You’ve heard the saying, “You can’t have good drama without conflict”? That is the same sentiment as what is at work here. There have to be problems to solve and obstacles to overcome in order for a narrative to create a sense of tension in a reader. Of course, the presence of this tension presupposes a resolution to it which in turn provides a sense of emotional satisfaction.

The intriguing thing here is that while we, as writers, are thinking about emotions and psychology, much of it apparently boils down to a chemical reaction in the brain.

That chemical is called Oxytocin. This discussion led me to another Harvard Business Review article: The Irresistible Power of Storytelling as a Strategic Business Tool.

It’s not often that you hear Budweiser and Shakespeare mentioned in the same breath. But according to new research from Johns Hopkins University, the Bard’s deft application of storytelling techniques featured prominently in the beer company’s Super Bowl commercial.

In “Puppy Love,” a perfectly adorable yellow lab becomes inseparable friends with a Clydesdale. Sneaking out of his pen, the pup and the horse “talk” in the stables and cavort on an idyllic farm –until someone comes to adopt the dog. The distressed puppy whines and places his paws against the window of the car set to take him to his new home. All seems lost until the Clydesdale rallies the other horses to stop the vehicle from leaving. Reunited, the two commence frolicking in the horse pasture and, we assume, live happily ever after.

Here is the commercial:

Currently at 53M+ views on YouTube, so clearly something at work here in terms of the story. But what?

If Keith Quesenberry were a betting man, he would have cleaned up. The researcher at Johns Hopkins predicted that the Budweiser spot would be a winner after conducting a two-year analysis of 108 Super Bowl commercials. In a paper that will be published in the Fall 2014 issue of The Journal of Marketing Theory and Practice, Quesenberry and research partner Michael Coolsen focused on brands’ use of specific strategies to sell products, such as featuring cute animals or sexy celebrities. But they also coded the commercials for plot development.

They found that, regardless of the content of the ad, the structure of that content predicted its success. “People are attracted to stories,” Quesenberry tells me, “because we’re social creatures and we relate to other people.”

It’s no surprise. We humans have been communicating through stories for upwards of 20,000 years, back when our flat screens were cave walls.

“Especially in the Super Bowl, those 30-second ads are almost like mini movies,” he says. Quesenberry found that the ads that told a more complete story using Freytag’s Pyramid — a dramatic structure that can be traced back to Aristotle — were the most popular.

Shakespeare had mastered this structure, arranging his plays in five acts to include an exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and a dénouement — or final outcome. The “Best Buds” story also uses these elements to great effect. The more of the acts each version of the ad had, the better it performed.

Storytelling evokes a strong neurological response. Neuroeconomist Paul Zak‘s research indicates that our brains produce the stress hormone cortisol during the tense moments in a story, which allows us to focus, while the cute factor of the animals releases oxytocin, the feel-good chemical that promotes connection and empathy. Other neurological research tells us that a happy ending to a story triggers the limbic system, our brain’s reward center, to release dopamine which makes us feel more hopeful and optimistic.

We can now add Cortisol and Dopamine to Oxytocin, all chemical reactions in our brains related to storytelling. But to get there via a story, we have Freytag’s Pyramid. Looking at it, I still see three movements with concurrent chemical reactions:

Empathy [Oxytocin]: Establish a point of emotional resonance with characters.
Tension [Cortisol]: Create a dilemma that arouses disunity.
Release [Dopamine]: Resolve the dilemma that brings about unity.

Yet another way of looking at Three Act Structure.

Of course, this approach assumes we want to write a story that leaves people in a happy place. Obviously there are stories that do not do that. Which is, of course, completely fine.

However there is a reason why a vast majority of mainstream Hollywood movies have happy endings. Actually two reasons: Meet Mr. Dopamine and Ms. Oxytocin!

For the rest of the article, go here.

For Part 1 of this series, go here.

In Part 3, we delve into the science of a well-constructed plot.

Writing and the Creative Life is a weekly series in which we explore creativity from the practical to the psychological, the latest in brain science to a spiritual take on the subject. Hopefully the more we understand about our creative self, the better we will become as writers. If you have any good reading material in this vein, please post in comments. If you have a particular observation you think readers will benefit from and you would like to explore in a guest post, email me.


Writing and the Creative Life: Why Your Brain Loves Good Storytelling (Part 2) was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

The Ranch: Part 3 Premiere Date and Photos

the ranch: part 3

The Ranch: Part 3 premiere date and photos

Netflix has just announced a premiere date for The Ranch: Part 3 and released brand-new photos from the 10-episode series. The show will premiere on June 16, 2017 on the streaming service. The Ranch premiered on Netflix on April 1, 2016, with the second set of 10 episodes coming online a mere few months afterwards, on October 7, 2016. The Ranch: Part 3 will pick up where we left off at the end of last year. Colt is forced to face the new reality of his complicated love triangle with Abby and Heather; Rooster settles into relationship life with Mary after bitterly moving off the ranch; and Maggie and Beau navigate life as divorced friends.

Here is the official info for The Ranch: Part 3“Set in present day on a Colorado ranch, this multi-camera family comedy features returning stars: Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson, Sam Elliott and Debra Winger. The show follows Colt’s (Kutcher) return home after a brief and failed semi- pro football career to run the family ranching business with his older brother Jameson “Rooster” (Masterson) and father Beau (Elliott), whom he hasn’t seen in 15 years. Winger stars as Colt’s and Jimmy’s mother, Maggie, who runs the local town bar. The series also features Elisha Cuthbert (Abby), and fellow That 70’s Show alum Wilmer Valderrama  (Umberto).”

The show brings together a number of stars from the TV series That ’70s Show (1998-2006), including Kutcher, Masterson and Valderrama. The Ranch: Part 3 is written and executive produced by Jim Patterson and Don Reo (Two and a Half Men). You can check out the new pics in the gallery below.

Have you guys been watching the show? Are you excited for what’s coming in season 3? Will you binge watch when it premieres on June 16? Let us know in the comments or tweet us @ComingSoonnet!

 

 

The post The Ranch: Part 3 Premiere Date and Photos appeared first on ComingSoon.net.

ComingSoon.net

Script Analysis: “The Invitation” — Part 6: Takeaways

Read the script for the acclaimed indie thriller and discuss this week.

Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this bi-weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:

Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Plot
Wednesday: Characters
Thursday: Themes
Friday: Dialogue
Saturday: Takeaways

Today: Takeaways.

This week, we have been reading, analyzing, and discussing the script and movie The Invitation. In some ways, today’s exercise is the whole point of the series: What did you take away from the experience of reading and analyzing the script?

Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.

Plot summary: While attending a dinner party at his former home, a man thinks his ex-wife and her new husband have sinister intentions for their guests.

Write a RESPONSE and let me know what your takeaways have been from the script for The Invitation.

Major kudos to Joni Brainerd for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for The Invitation, go here.

For Part 1, to read the Scene-By-Scene Breakdown, go here.

For Part 2, to read Major Plot Points, go here.

For Part 3, to read Characters, go here.

For Part 4, to read Themes, go here.

For Part 5, to read Dialogue, go here.

Seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

I hope to see you in the RESPONSE section about this week’s script: The Invitation.


Script Analysis: “The Invitation” — Part 6: Takeaways was originally published in Go Into The Story on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Go Into The Story — Medium

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