Script Analysis: “La La Land” — Part 4: Themes

Read the script for the Oscar nominated movie and analyze it all 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: Themes.

I have this theory about theme. In two parts. First, a principle: Theme = Meaning. What does the story mean? Second, while there is almost always a Central Theme, there are multiple other Sub-Themes at play in a story. Therefore the question, What does a story mean takes on several layers of meaning?

Time to ponder themes in La La Land. You can download a PDF of the script here.

Written by Damien Chazelle.

Plot summary: La La Land tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

Writing Exercise: Explore the themes in La La Land. What is its Central Theme? What are some of the related Sub-Themes?

Major kudos to Sharita Gopal for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for La La Land, 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.

Tomorrow we shift our focus to the script’s dialogue.

Seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

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

Onward!


Script Analysis: “La La Land” — Part 4: Themes 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: “La La Land” — Part 3: Characters

Read the script for the Oscar nominated movie and analyze it all 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 La La Land. You can download a PDF of the script here. A list of the key characters:

Mia

Sebastian

Bill

Greg

Keith

Laura

Harry

David

Written by Damien Chazelle.

Plot summary: La La Land tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

Writing Exercise: Think about each character. What’s their function? And see if you can use character archetypes to help in your analysis.

Major kudos to Sharita Gopal for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for La La Land, go here.

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

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

Tomorrow: We reflect on themes in La La Land.

Seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!

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

Onward!


Script Analysis: “La La Land” — 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: “La La Land” — Part 2: Plot

Read the script for the Oscar nominated movie and analyze it all 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: La La Land. You can download a PDF of the script here.

Written by Damien Chazelle.

Plot summary: La La Land tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown of La La Land 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 Sharita Gopal for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for La La Land, 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: La La Land.

Onward!


Script Analysis: “La La Land” — 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

Script Analysis: “La La Land” — Part 1: Scene By Scene Breakdown

Read the script for the Oscar nominated movie and analyze it all 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: La La Land. You can download a PDF of the script here.

Written by Damien Chazelle.

Plot summary: La La Land tells the story of Mia [Emma Stone], an aspiring actress, and Sebastian [Ryan Gosling], a dedicated jazz musician, who are struggling to make ends meet in a city known for crushing hopes and breaking hearts. Set in modern day Los Angeles, this original musical about everyday life explores the joy and pain of pursuing your dreams.

La La Land
Scene By Scene Breakdown
By Sharita Gopal
GoIntoTheStory.blcklst.com

P. 2 Morning rush hour on the 101 Freeway, cars are at a standstill. We drift past several cars and hear snippets of audio. One female driver starts singing, exits her car and starts dancing down the lane. Other drivers join her. This scene sets the tone and style of the movie.

P. 2 FLASH TITLE CARD: WINTER

P. 2–3 We are in the same traffic jam with SEBASTIAN, 32, L.A. Native, who listens to a tape of Thelonious Monk’s “Japanese Folk Song” which he keeps stopping, over and over, rewinding to the same exact spot.

Further up ahead, in another car is MIA, 27, Nevada-raised who has experienced six years of ‘No’ in L.A, toughened but still a dreamer. She rehearses lines from a script and doesn’t notice that traffic around her lets up and the car behind her honks. It’s SEBASTIAN, he passes her and she gives him the finger.

P. 3–5 We follow MIA who works in a COFFEE SHOP on a STUDIO LOT. She ignores a call from her mom and leaves work early to audition for a CASTING DIRECTOR. Her audition gets interrupted by the ASSISTANT. Mia waits to continue but the casting director has seen enough and thanks her for coming.

P. 6–8 MIA goes home exhausted. She shares an APARTMENT with three girls: TRACY (27), ALEXIS(26), CAITLIN (27) who are going out and want MIA to join them but she isn’t in the mood. TRACY breaks out into a song to persuade MIA, the other roommates join her singing and dancing. They are about to leave when MIA suddenly appears and joins them. They dance their way down the street and leave in one single car to a party in a modern HILLTOP HOUSE.

P. 9 We are at the party. MIA takes in the surroundings of the party where every Hollywood cliche is apparent and fitting in is not easy. In the bathroom, she takes a moment for herself and sings, feeling vulnerable, before she joins the party again. She moves through the party and ends up at pool where someone jumps in. Everyone joins in, circling the pool, singing and dancing. Here ends the song.

P. 10 MIA is alone at the parking spot. There is no car and she can’t reach TRACY. She starts walking home and hears on her way a PIANO MELODY. She follows that sound.

P. 10 CUT BACK TO THE SAME TRAFFIC JAM THAT MORNING. We’re back with SEBASTIAN, he honked and passes MIA, who gives him the finger. Moments later, he’s at RAYO’S and looks with disapproval at a 30s Deco building where the sign above the door reads ‘ Van Beek — Tapas and Tunes’.

P. 11–14 SEBASTIAN finds his sister LAURA, 37 in his bare apartment; no furniture, boxes unpacked and not made like a home, much to the annoyance of LAURA. SEBASTIAN tells he will unpack the boxes in his own club and he can’t believe it has become a tapas-samba place. His sister wants him to let go that he got ripped off and start living again. She wants him to meet a woman but he’s not interested. After she leaves, he practices the same Thelonious Monk song we heard in his car that morning, over and over, till he gets it right.

P. 15–16 SEBASTIAN arrives to work in a restaurant. He has worked there before. His boss reminds him to stick to the set list. He agrees but later he drifts off and starts playing something else, more freely; it’s the same melody MIA has heard outside and followed (from here on this song is called ‘Mia and Sebastian’s song’). Right then, Mia steps in and is immediately struck by this playing and a fantasy scene follows in which Mia and Sebastian are all alone. After the song ends, we’re back to reality. MIA is struck by the song. She and SEBASTIAN look at one another for a moment. The boss fires SEBASTIAN for his free play and SEBASTIAN walks away, hurt and angry, ignoring MIA who approaches him to pay him a compliment. MIA feels slapped in the face.

P. 17 SPRING

We see a few of MIA auditions. It’s pilot season cattle-call.

MIA visits a party where a 80s cover band plays. TRACY introduces her to CARLO, a writer but she’s not interested. She sees SEBASTIAN playing the keybord-guitar in the band and requests to play ‘I ran’. SEBASTIAN recognizes her and after the song, he apologizes for his previous behavior and they have a chat. After the party MIA dishes CARLO in the valet line and asks SEBASTIAN to get her key.

P. 21–24 MIA and SEBASTIAN walk to her car. MIA aims with her key fob at the lined cars but there is no beep. SEBASTIAN shows her a trick to get it work. They reach a clearing where the city skyline appears, a romantic sight but they downplay the romantic setting. They break into a song — a lovely night- and sing about this while they obviously feel something brewing. Bit by bit they’ve slipped into a dance and do really dance well together. At the height of their blossoming romance, a cell phone cuts through. It’s GREG, whom MIA has been dating. MIA leaves. SEBASTIAN is disappointed, returns to his car which was across the party.

P. 24–29 SEBASTIAN visits MIA at the coffee shop and after her shift they wander on the lot. MIA shares how long she has been dating GREG, how she got into acting and that’s the only thing she really wants, how she wrote her own plays when she was young and how she’s still doing auditions. SEBASTIAN encourages her to write her own roles. MIA confesses she hates jazz. Then, they hear drums and enter an old-school jazz club, LIGHTHOUSE CAFE.

P. 29–31 SEBASTIAN shares with MIA his love for jazz and the importance to safe it from dying. When he has his own club Van Beek back, the musicians could play whatever they want. MIA is moved by him and they have a special moment which is interrupted when her phone rings. She has a call-back for a show which is sort of Rebel without a cause. MIA confesses she hasn’t seen the movie and SEBASTIAN offers to take her to theater to see it, for research. They set a date for Monday evening. There is something brewing between them but they both suppress it.

P. 32 MIA and SEBASTIAN part. SEBASTIAN begins to sing — CITY OF STARS. He’s lifted by a strange new feeling. Perhaps he’s falling in love but there is also uncertainty if his dream will sustain.

P. 32–34 MIA answers her mom on the phone while she’s on the way to the audition. It’s a call- back on a pilot. Her mother doesn’t really understand the idea of a call-back and thinks she’s going to be on TV. MIA has practices her role a lot and is disappointed when she only gets one chance to say a few lines. She goes home humiliated. The idea of going to the movies with SEBASTIAN cheers her up a little bit.

P. 35 MIA is changing clothes for her date with SEBASTIAN when GREG shows up and asks her to hurry up for their date with his brother. She had forgotten about that. She’s crushed she can’t see SEBASTIAN but doesn’t have his number to call him off.

P. 17–21

P. 35 SEBASTIAN is playing a jam session in the LIGHTHOUSE CAFE. He’s looking forward to the evening with MIA.

P. 36 MIA is having dinner with GREG, JOSH (Greg’s brother) and his fiancee. She hasn’t spoken a word.

P. 36 SEBASTIAN paces at the RIALTO MOVIE THEATER, waiting for MIA.

P. 36 We are back at the restaurant. MIA is bored, restless and uneasy. Suddenly, she hears hers and SEBASTIAN’S song and the tune stirs something deep within her, which she can’t deny any longer, and she runs out of the restaurant to the theater.

P. 37–39 SEBASTIAN is thrilled to see MIA. During the movie, their bodies grow closer inch by inch until their hands touch. When they are about to kiss, the screen goes blank. They leave for the GRIFFITH OBSERVATORY and sneak in. They walk around and somewhere they begin dancing. This dance is fulfillIng and they drift off into the planetarium where they spin and twirl as if they were in outer space. Finally, they lock lips. It’s a kiss to remember.

P. 40 MIA works on her play at home. TRACY wants a role in it but it’s a one-woman show. SEBASTIAN honks outside to pick her up.

P. 41 SUMMER

P. 41 A series of glimpses follow with MIA and SEBASTIAN showing how they spend time with each other. Interspersed throughout we see images of L.A.

P. 41–42 SEBASTIAN plays the keys at the LIGHTHOUSE JAM SESSION. He has a great time and MIA dances her heart out although the place is almost empty. KEITH, 35, approaches SEBASTIAN but he’s not happy to see him. They used to play together. KEITH is looking for keys for a new combo. SEBASTIAN turns the offer down.

P. 43–45 MIA reads her play for SEBASTIAN and he loves it although MIA is not sure if people will like it. SEBASTIAN tells her to fuck em and he promises to be front-row when she performs. This means the world to her and she surprises him with a drawing of the name design for his club. It says ‘Seb’s” but he wants to call it “Chicken on a stick” which MIA disapproves. SEBASTIAN has his eyes set on getting back Van Beek for its history but MIA tells him to make his own history. He likes that line. MIA asks if he’s going to call back KEITH for the job offer but SEBASTIAN says no.

P. 46 SEBASTIAN overhears snatches of MIA’s voice in the other room, she’s talking to her mom and tells about her one-woman play which is going to pay for herself and that SEBASTIAN is going to open a jazz club but he has to get the money together first. SEBASTIAN takes this in and thinks about it.

P. 46–48 SEBASTIAN visit KEITH and his combo in their rehearsal space. KEITH offers him a deal and SEBASTIAN reluctantly accepts. He won’t be playing a piano but a keyboard. He plays to see how it feels. The combo plays modern jazz with an electronic feel. It isn’t his style but at least the guys can play. KEITH tells him that the music is different and that jazz is about the future and that he can have the job if he wants it.

P. 49–51 We are at SEBASTIAN’s apartment. He plays the piano when MIA enters. A melody we have heard before. He starts singing and she joins him. We follow MIA and SEBASTIAN in their life and see a series of events.
SEBASTIAN signs paperwork with KEITH. MIA hands her apron to the manager. She’s done working there. The band rehearses in their new place, KEITH sings and SEBASTIAN plays keys. MIA works on her play in a cafe. SEBASTIAN gets dressed up in a new suits. MIA haggles and shakes hands with the owner of a BLACK-BOX THEATER for her play. SEBASTIAN and the band waiting in a green room. MIA looking for props in a vintage shop and penciling out drawings for her play. We also see that MIA goes to be alone and SEBASTIAN comes home late in the morning. We return to SEBASTIAN’S apartment before this latest journey began and they finish the song.

P. 51 SEBASTIAN is on stage with KEITH and his combo in THE ECHO. The place is filled with people and MIA is also there, proud of him. When she hears the music she is taken aback but the crowd goes crazy. Back-up dancers appear on stage and the lights go nuts, which makes the crowd cheer. Something changes in MIA. She looks around and at SEBASTIAN and doesn’t recognize him.

P. 52 FALL

P. 52–54 MIA has lunch/diner with LAURA and HARRY, her new boyfriend. SEBASTIAN is not there because he’s playing in SAN DIEGO. MIA misses him and asks LAURA if SEBASTIAN is happy with the band, the travel and all of it. LAURA is glad that he gets to play music and get paid for it.

P. 54–55 Back home, MIA calls SEBASTIAN and leaves a message that she misses him. She visits his apartment and finds him there unexpected. He’s there for one night for her and he has cooked a surprise dinner for them.

P. 56–61 SEBASTIAN asks her to come to BOISE but MIA can’t because she has to rehearse. They agree they have to do things to see each other and MIA wants to know when he’s done with the tour. She finds out he’s in for the long haul, touring, recording and back to touring, probably for years. She asks him if he likes the music he’s playing and if he’s ready to give up his dream for being on the road. SEBASTIAN thougt that MIA wanted him to be doing what he does but MIA wanted him to have a steady job so that he could support himself and start his own club. SEBASTIAN says that no one likes jazz and will come to the club. MIA disagrees, she likes jazz because of him. They argue about his dream and SEBASTIAN snaps that she probably liked him more when he was a failure. MIA is hurt. She grabs her things and leaves.

P. 61 MIA is in the theater and prepares herself. She tells herself she can do this.

P. 62 SEBASTIAN is finished with rehearsal. KEITH reminds him there is a photo shoot tonight at seven pm. SEBASTIAN had forgotten about that.

P. 62 People are shuffling into the theater. MIA is nervous but she can do this. She starts her show around seven pm.

P. 63 A photographer takes the picture of SEBASTIAN, KEITH and the other members of the combo. SEBASTIAN does as told but his thoughts are elsewhere and he watches his watch.

P. 64 MIA is finished with her play and bows. The theater was less than a quarter full and SEBASTIAN’s seat was empty. She’s hurt and overhears two audience members criticizing her play. It’s the final nail in the coffin.

P. 65–66 SEBASTIAN arrives when MIA carries her box of props to the car. He apologizes for being late and his previous behavior and he kisses her but she’s not interested. She’s done embarrassing herself; no one showed up and she can’t pay the theater back. She’s going home, LA is not her home anymore and she drives off, leaving SEBASTIAN alone. MIA goes to her parents in NEVADA and stays there in her old bedroom.

P. 67–68 SEBASTIAN is at the engagement party of LAURA and HARRY. At home, he receives a call for MIA, it’s someone from the casting agency.

P. 69–72 SEBASTIAN shows up at MIA home with news from the casting director. She was at her play and loved it. She wants MIA to audition for a movie. SEBASTIAN is excited but MIA is not going because she doubts she’s good enough. SEBASTIAN tries to talk her over and says he’ll wait for her when he’s going back tomorrow. Either she shows up or not.

P. 73–74 MIA shows up in the morning and drives back with SEBASTIAN to LA to the audition. She needs to tell a story by herself for the audition. She starts with her aunt living in Paris and then breaks into a song.

75–76 After the audition, they talk in the park. SEBASTIAN is convinced she’ll get the part but MIA isn’t. MIA asks what they should do about them. SEBASTIAN doesn’t believe they can do anything when she gets the part because she has to give everything for her dream. He’s going to stay here and follow his own plan. They say they are always going to love each other.

P. 77 WINTER — FIVE YEARS LATER

P. 77–78 A woman enters the coffee shop on the studio lot and all eyes are on her. She orders coffee. That woman is MIA. She looks different and carries herself different. After she exits, she’s picked up by a crew member on a golf cart.

P. 78–79 SEBASTIAN is in his own club — small, simple and tasteful. He’s done testing the piano. His employee tells him they didn’t do too bad last month and that’s great for him.

P. 79 At Chateau Marmont, MIA comes home and finds flowers and cards with congratulations written on them. She kisses DAVID, 35, and a two-year-old girl grabs her legs.

P. 79 SEBASTIAN enters his apartment which is more habitable, fully furnished, warm and welcoming than his old ones. He eats his meal.

P. 79 SEBASTIAN arrives at his club and passes a movie poster with Mia’s face on it as he walks to his club, which is bustling. He has employed one of the old LIGHTHOUSE players.

P. 80 MIA and DAVID are dressed for an appointment and leave. They are stuck in traffic and decide to skip it, turn off and get somewhere dinner.

P. 81 MIA and DAVID walk down the street, hear music and follow it. Then, MIA sees that the sign on the door reads ‘SEB’s’ , written like she had drawn it for SEBASTIAN years ago. DAVID suggest to go inside.

P. 82 The jazz club is bustling, there is a wide range of ages and styles. MIA and SEBASTIAN see each other and lock eyes. It’s the first time, they’ve seen each other in years. SEBASTIAN plays their song and slowly a fantasy-flashback scene emerges.

We are back at that same restaurant when MIA laid first eyes on SEBASTIAN. Within this fantasy-flashback, SEBASTIAN doesn’t walk past her once he’s finished playing and having talked to his boss. Instead, he decks her with a kiss.

They enter their own new place, a one-bedroom. SEBASTIAN says no to KEITH when he approaches him at the LIGHTHOUSE cafe. SEBASTIAN watches MIA perform at the night of her play, her roommates and LAURA and HARRY are there, too. All seats are sold. Her play is a success.MIA auditions for the casting agency and they travel together in PARIS. SEBASTIAN plays jazz at a club in Paris while MIA is shooting her movie. They dance at nighttime Paris.

We see a series of footage on a projector: The first home, MIA’s pregnancy, the newborn child, child’s first birthday, child’s first day of pre-school. SEBASTIAN and MIA, are married and parents, they have a date night and go into town. They are blocked by a traffic jam and take a side route to end up in a jazz club. It looks like SEBASTIAN’s club. They sit down and listens to their song, played by the pianist. The kiss and we go back to reality.

P. 86 SEBASTIAN has finished playing their song. The audience loves it. MIA and DAVID leave after the song is finished. Before she steps out of the club, MIA locks eyes with SEBASTIAN and smiles for a second. It’s the kind of smile that reveals she remembers the song he played.

Writing Exercise: I encourage you to read the script, but short of that, if you’ve seen the movie, go through this scene-by-scene breakdown. What stands out to you about it from a structural standpoint?

Major kudos to Sharita Gopal for doing this week’s scene-by-scene breakdown.

To download a PDF of the breakdown for La La Land, 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 / Abhinav Tiwari and 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: La La Land.

Onward!


Script Analysis: “La La Land” — 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

Visual effects are just for the big boys, right? (Part 2)

 

In part one of this article, I talked about how VFX can add scale and depth to your production, can often help you avoid unexpected and expensive re-shoots. If you’re properly prepared, it needn’t cost the earth.

How to make it work, and keep the budget down

This is where it gets a little technical. Most VFX shots will not be using a locked down camera therefore you need some way of anchoring your VFX object into the scene, so that its movement about the screen exactly matches the part of the set or person it’s supposed to be attached to. If you don’t anchor it, the effect will float about and be screamingly obvious.

The thing that anchors your VFX object is a very clever piece of software called a camera tracker. It analyses your 2D film or video frames and generates a 3D camera track which can be transferred to a 3D animation package like Maya or 3DS Max. Once the effects object has been built and rendered, it can be overlaid on your original footage, and will move about as part of your scene.

For this to work, it is essential that you and your set are properly prepared. So here are some tips to help you avoid that awful moment when you find the VFX you’d planned can’t be done:

1) Talk to your VFX person BEFORE you plan your scenes. He or she will be able to tell you what’s possible within your budget and what’s not. You might be wise to have a chat before you work out your budget. That way you can plan for what’s possible and what’s affordable.

2) If the effects are within moving camera shots, you need to be sure the camera tracking software has enough information in every frame to be able to generate a reliable track. There are a number of things you can do to help this:

a)  if possible, place tracking markers (small tape crosses of a contrasting colour to the background, or special tracking targets which can be bought online) around your set, especially on any green screens or other areas you want to replace – these can be removed in post.

b)  try to avoid using zoom lenses and shifts of focus: they make tracking much more difficult;

c)  take note of the type, focal length and horizontal lens angle of the lens you’re using, as well as the camera make and model.

3) Try to ensure that any green screen you are using is well lit. Poorly-lit green screens can make creating the hold-out areas for VFX objects problematical. Any green light overspill onto objects in the scene can be filtered out in post.

4) If you’re using a green screen, avoid having actors wearing green clothes, otherwise they may be difficult to isolate in the travelling matte (see below). If your actors must wear green, try using a blue screen instead – but then you mustn’t have any actors in blue!

5) Take a series of photographs from the centre of your set or from the position of any VFX object you intend to be included, so that they can be assembled into a 360º panorama. Make several passes so that you include the ceiling and the floor (see here for a quick and dirty method using an iPhone), be sure you have all your lights on when you do this. This can be used to generate an image with which to light the VFX scene so that the lighting matches your real scene, it can also be used to provide reflections on VFX objects if you want them. At worst, take careful note of the position, height and power of all your lights, and also the size of any soft boxes you’re using. If you happen to know the colour temperature of each light as well, that can be useful.

6) If you have the budget, get hold of one of those large chrome balls-on-a-stick, place it in the middle of your set or where your VFX object is going to be, and take a hi-res photograph of it from roughly where the camera will be most of the time;  as with the 360º panorama, this can be used to generate an image with which to light the VFX scene so that the lighting matches your real scene, and to provide reflections on VFX objects if you want them. You’re probably going to want to hire one of these, as they cost from £450 to over £1,000 to buy (see VFX store or Akromatic gadget shop). They often come either half silver and half a known colour of grey, or in pairs with one silver and one grey ball. The grey can be used to get an idea of the overall colour of your lighting. As with the 360º panorama, you need to be sure all your lights are on when you use these balls.

7) Make a plan of your constructed set and measure the actual sizes and distances between significant objects;  this can help the VFX artist to line up elements in your scene and be sure everything fits, especially if you don’t have some of the other information above (please note that this has to be your actual physical set;  production drawings won’t be enough).

The picture above shows an apartment set with a green screen outside the balcony where a New York vista could be added. Note that the green screen is well lit and it has tracking markers placed on it at regular intervals. A chrome sphere has been placed in the middle of the room to capture the lighting information (this can also be done by creating a 360º photographic panorama). Notice also that there are quite a lot of nice sharp angles in the set (corners of pictures and doors etc.) which make it easier for the tracking software to work.

Not all of these points will be necessary for every occasion, but talking to your VFX person in advance will help you decide what you actually need.

I’m very happy to talk further if anyone needs more explanation, so do feel free to e-mail me!

The post Visual effects are just for the big boys, right? (Part 2) appeared first on Raindance.

Raindance

Character Introductions: 12 Part Series

Everything you need to know about the subject… and probably more.

Think there’s nothing to introducing characters in a script? Think again!

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a deep dive into the subject of character introductions. Why?

For an explanation, check out Part 1.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.

Part 4 here.

Part 5 here.

Part 6 here.

Part 7 here.

Part 8 here.

Part 9 here.

Part 10 here.

Part 11 here.

Part 12 here.


Character Introductions: 12 Part Series 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

Character Introductions: Part 12

Think there’s nothing to introducing characters in a script? Think again!

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been doing a deep dive into the subject of character introductions. Why? For an explanation, check out Part 1.

Part 2 here.

Part 3 here.

Part 4 here.

Part 5 here.

Part 6 here.

Part 7 here.

Part 8 here.

Part 9 here.

Part 10 here.

Part 11 here.

Part 12: Introduction Through Surprise (cont’d)

Ending First: There are stories where the narrative is told backward such as Memento or the 1983 Harold Pinter movie adaptation of his play Betrayal [description from IMDb]: “Pinter’s play examines the surprise attraction, shy first steps, gradual flowering, and treasonous deception of a woman’s extramarital affair with her husband’s best friend; the entire story is told from the husband’s point of view, with the scenes in precise reverse chronological order.” In both cases, the narrative starts at the end.

Then there are movies, such as Citizen Kane and The Usual Suspects, where the story starts with the ending, then cuts back in time to the ‘true’ beginning, and proceeds in linear fashion toward the finale.

One excellent example of this that also represents a surprising character introduction is the 1950 Billy Wilder classic Sunset Blvd. Here is an excerpt of the opening:

Of course the surprise is not only the story starting at the end, but also the revelation that the character providing the voiceover is the dead man in the pool.

Dreams / nightmares: Give the appearance things are one way, then reveal they aren’t. That’s one surprise you can pull if you use a dream or nightmare to introduce a character. The 1983 movie Risky Business [written by Paul Brickman] begins with a classic teenage fantasy that turns into a nightmare:

Interestingly when Trojan War sold as a pitch to Warner Bros., we started the script at the end: Brad in a police interrogation room, battered and beaten, much in the same spirit and tone as The Hangover. The director came along and switched the opening to a dream sequence which you can see here.

Summary

Surprise is yet one more trick of the trade. When we put them all together — physicality as personality, dialogue, action, objects, surprise and editorializing — it’s clear we have a variety of ways to craft compelling, informative and entertaining character introductions.

I hope you have enjoyed this series. Hopefully it will serve as a reminder to take care when introducing your story’s characters.

Comments? Click on RESPONSE and let me know what you think.


Character Introductions: Part 12 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

First Fun Trailer for Part 2 of Thor & Darryl’s ‘Team Thor’ Video Diary

Team Thor

“I can’t, uh, pay rent with these things…” Marvel Studios has unveiled a teaser trailer for Part 2 of “Team Thor“, the video dairies of roommates Thor & Darryl. The very first fan-favorite Thor & Darryl video premiered at Comic-Con last year in Hall H, and received some of the most buzz I’ve ever heard coming out of the convention. It eventually ended up online a few months later, and it’s hilarious. The video diaries are made in the style of “The Office”, involving Thor and his friend Darryl, who has a tough job of dealing with the “God of Thunder” as his roomie. I like the footage in this new teaser, it seems like Marvel is happily continuing this series and there may be even more footage beyond just Part 1 & 2. Only time will tell. Enjoy. ›››

Continue reading First Fun Trailer for Part 2 of Thor & Darryl’s ‘Team Thor’ Video Diary


FirstShowing.net

Interview (Part 6): Justin Piasecki (2016 Nicholl Winner)

My conversation with the writer of the winning script “Death of an Ortolan”.

Justin Piasecki wrote the original screenplay “Death of an Ortolan” which won a 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Justin about his background, his award-winning script, the craft of screenwriting, and what winning the Nicholl has meant to him.

Today in Part 6, Justin gives his take on the question: what advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters trying to learn the craft and break into Hollywood:

Scott: What about characters? If you’re developing characters how do you go about doing that?

Justin: I’ll read three or four scripts that I think are kind of the pace of what I’d like to see things go at for my own thing.

I’ll make a timeline across my giant dry‑erase board thing. For characters, I can literally see on the left side of the room, “OK, at this point this is where his or her mind is. If he was forced to make this decision on page 12, this is what he would decide.”

Then at page 37 or something and ask “Now he wouldn’t be sure because the things in the seven inches before that on this big ruler of story that I’ve made, those things would happen.” By the end you’re looking at the right corner of the room and you’re saying, “Now if he was asked the same thing as he was on 13 he would make a totally different decision.”

I’ll color‑code, too. Like you said, there’s a lot of plots that need to wrap up in the third act. One part is orange dry‑erase marker and that’s his relationship with Vince, the protege prison cook. I’ll say, “God, we haven’t hit all the steps we need to hit for that because I’ve got a little bit of orange down here, and then we never hear from him again.” For me, that sort of crayon system works. If I was color‑blind, I’d be screwed.

Scott: [laughs] It fits. They say movies are a visual medium, so why not write from a place where you’re organizing them in a visual way. How about dialogue? Your dialogue in the script is great. How do you go about finding your characters’ voices?

Justin: Super annoyingly to anyone around me. I’ll read everything out loud as I’m writing it which means a ton of bad Southern accents or what I think a prisoner is going to sound like or a bureau chief or a cop or a little girl. I’ll do them all, because if they sound stupid in a room read from me, then I think they’re going to read stupid on a page.

If I’m embarrassed to say it out loud in front of no one in my house, then I should be embarrassed to write it down. That goes a long way. That’s the rule, for actual voice, for dialogue.

Look up interviews, too. I read cook books, I read chef’s bios, I read Anthony Bourdain for how food is described.

I read Nancy Mullane’s book Life After Murder. Those are four or five in‑depth stories of prisoners, and they’re interviewed. You really do get a dialect from that, I would have never been able to come up with.

The guy that wrote “Lincoln” read an entire dictionary of 19th century English in order to make the dialogue absolutely authentic. That was a little inspirational or at least made me feel a little bad for not doing homework. That guy did his work.

Scott: Tony Kushner.

Justin: Right.

Scott: How about theme? Do you start with theme? Do you find it along the way? How do you surface central themes, sub‑themes?

Justin: Along the way. I’ll start with the character. I think if you stick with your arc and your three tent poles there’s only so many themes that will work. I didn’t want to force anything in there, and staying true to your character and his journey will determine the themes.

Scott: How about writing a scene? Do you have any specific goals in mind, top of mind, when you’re writing a scene?

Justin: People do vomit drafts. I don’t do that. But I’ll do vomit scenes, then I’ll go back through and I’ll cut it halfway. “

Scott: Basically give yourself the freedom to explore long, write long, but then go back and trim and tighten so that it’s efficient.

Justin: Yeah.

You look at your scene and you say, “What is the goal of that scene?” If you realize that you have 30 lines of dialogue, but you actually reach that goal by line seven, stop at line seven. That keeps your best stuff in there. As much as you like that joke that you came up with for line 15, as much as you’re proud of yourself for making the scene directions on line 26 only three lines instead of four because you hyphenated something…

I just found myself doing that a lot. Probably originally came from that Blake Sneider school of I’d like to be here by 12 and here by 18 and here by 25. Page real estate was something I really had my eye on. I think you need to try to ignore that if you can the first time.

Scott: Have you moved away from that now? You said ignore that. Do you mean just allow yourself the story, the freedom to exist wherever the page count need to be?

Justin: It’ll naturally happen. If you look at the three or four guide scripts that you map out on your dry erase, those moments are happening within plus or minus four of the Blake Sneider page rules anyway. Whether it’s his rule or just the good pacing or the pacing of a good story, I think they’ll happen no matter what, but the first time you’re writing, I would just write dialogue freely.

Scott: I like your approach that you mentioned earlier. You find three or four scripts that have that kind of tone and feel and pace that you’re looking for. Go through there. Read those scripts. Analyze them. Track their timeline of plot points and just see, generally, what that is and let that be more informative of your process than say some strict adherence to these rigid so‑called rules.

Justin: Right. I’ll do it watching the movie too if I can’t find the script, then you sort of have the input of an editor.

Scott: Let me ask you a couple more questions then we’ll let you get back to your holiday festivities. Five or ten years down the road, Justin, perfect world, what are you doing?

Justin: I’m doing what I’m doing right now, which is waking up and writing for my day and then doing family at night. But I can only do that right now because I saved up a lot. [laughs] I would love to be working in features. I’ve got a few assignments in front of me now that I might jump on.

Scott: Finally what advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters trying to learn the craft and break into Hollywood.

Justin: From the perspective of someone that had no connections and is getting on in years, I’d say this:

With no connections, the route I found luck in was competitions and fellowships. Do your research, because there’s a million of them, some more professional than others. I’ve placed in a few, and how high you place matters of course, but personally I’ve had good results with Bluecat, TrackingB, Script Pipeline and Tracking Board (and of course, Nicholl). Some come with money, but they all came with exposure, that was my first pipeline to getting representation.

The fees can add up though. Film festivals usually host one, and there may be some niche places that could fit your script really well. So, like with anything, do your research.

And in terms of age, I was about to turn, I think it was 29. Lots of people go the assistant route for connections, I sort of found myself priced out at that age though. So for writing, there’s no rules on what age this can all happen, but I realized that if I didn’t take this seriously right now, then I was screwing myself. So, go work. It’s a full time job.

Peter Samuelson, Justin Piasecki

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Part 5, here.

Justin is repped by CAA and Zero Gravity Management.


Interview (Part 6): Justin Piasecki (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 5): Justin Piasecki (2016 Nicholl Winner)

My conversation with the writer of the winning script “Death of an Ortolan”.

Justin Piasecki wrote the original screenplay “Death of an Ortolan” which won a 2016 Nicholl Fellowship in Screenwriting. Recently I had the opportunity to chat with Justin about his background, his award-winning script, the craft of screenwriting, and what winning the Nicholl has meant to him.

Today in Part 5, Justin describe what it has been like to be a Nicholl Fellowship recipient:

Scott: At the Nicholl ceremony, Peter Samuelson introduced you. He described Walter, the protagonist’s situation as being “an ordinary man with an extraordinary moral challenge.” What do you think about that?

Justin: I thought Peter did a wonderful job of presenting the moral conflict. I was incredibly proud of it being read that way.

This is a moral decision. Capital punishment is a moral decision. This is a system, but these are people.

I didn’t want to take a high ground of saying, “This is right, and this is wrong,” but I did want to take a strong stance in saying, “This is happening. Are you OK with it? What do you think?” I wanted to write something that mattered to people. So that was wonderful to hear from him.

Scott: Let’s talk about the journey of the script to where it is now. You write the script, and then what?

Justin: When I moved out here, I really had no connections by any means. I made a Google calendar of a bunch of screenplay contests and fellowships that I thought this would be a good fit for.

I just applied to as many early birds, deadlines as I could get to in time. But when you apply that early, you don’t hear anything for six to eight months. I applied and then the next day, I started working on my next script because nothing is promised, nothing is guaranteed. I wrote a pilot immediately after that.

Then I started working on another pilot when the first competition I entered, came back. I was at the top eight or something like that. I read somewhere that “Apply at three competitions and see how you do.”

I said, “OK. That’s a good science.” I’m going to send it to my next one. The next one, it was top five.

I sent to another one, and it was a finalist. I was like, “I’m going to keep sending this one out. It seems like it’s resonating with people.” It certainly didn’t place in all of them but it placed in something like the first four that I sent to. Off of the second one or third one, I signed with the manager and through that I signed with an agent. That’s where things went from there.

Scott: So it was before the Nicholl?

Justin: Yeah. I was fortunate enough to have found reps before Nicholl, but they were very happy about Nicholl.

Scott: How did you hear about the Nicholl? What was that like?

Justin: Honestly, Nicholl was the pipe dream. There are other ones that I really held out for, that I think I have a tangible, feasible shot at this.

Nicholl was never that. The first time they reach out to you in person, they do it over the phone. I didn’t understand [laughs] what was going on. I don’t know. I never thought I would get that far. Also, it was my first year ever applying to Nicholl.

I’d heard and read these stories of, “On my 12th try or something, I got this far” or whatever. For it to be the first year and it to do as well as it had done that far, it really did take me by surprise.

Justin Piasecki

Scott: And your week‑long experience, of course, you didn’t have to travel anywhere. You were in Los Angeles but how was that pulling over the Beverly Hills and hanging out with all the people in there.

Justin: It’s wonderful. It’s a cram session of, “Hey, we think that you’re going to get to do this.” That alone is like, “Oh, great.” That’s a huge education in itself and here if we have five days, we’re going to try to get you as ready as possible. It’s really wonderful. They do a great job. They teach you about…you meet with reps. You meet with lawyers.

You enjoy yourself just by talking with other writers. Then of course, there’s the Nicholl committee you get to learn from. That’s an incredible opportunity in itself. There’s a just a continual mentorship with a lot of people. Now, I’m able to reach out to Peter. I was actually telling him about the next script that I want to work on.

He’s like, “You know, I know someone so you can meet with…” This is the script that I’ve been trying to research forever. In a 40‑minute lunch I’m suddenly able to meet the two heads of that industry and I was like, “This is something I could not get anywhere else. It’s hope, that you’re going to actually get to do this, no longer as your second night job but as your day job.” That’s incredible.

Scott: Let’s jump to a few craft questions here. You mentioned earlier massive outlining. That phrase jumped out at me. And research, and by the way, the research you did ‑‑ you speak with complete authority in that script. It completely feels authentic ‑‑ the cooking, the prison, all that stuff. What are the things you spent most of the time doing in prep writing? Outlining, research? Anything else that you do?

Justin: I try to read everything I can. Final Draft, which I write in, certainly has its tools, but for outlining there’s…. It’s called SuperNotecard Mindola, it’s from 2010 or something. It’s a digital notecard program and it’s got a really old draft of some Coen brothers movie as the tutorial.

Anyway, it’s a grid of notecards and you’re able to move them around and. not to make this a commercial, but honestly, this almost decade‑old software thing, super‑simple, but also really helpful in terms of outlining.

Tomorrow in Part 6, Justin gives his take on the question: what advice can you offer to aspiring screenwriters trying to learn the craft and break into Hollywood.

For Part 1 of the interview, go here.

Part 2, here.

Part 3, here.

Part 4, here.

Justin is repped by CAA and Zero Gravity Management.


Interview (Part 5): Justin Piasecki (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

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