The summer movie season is known for convention — sequels, remakes, broad comedies, CGI spectacles; rinse and repeat. But the films that really stand out and distinguish themselves creatively are those that break with commercial movie conventions in major ways, beginning with the script. Here’s three examples from recent years…
James Robert Martin returns for the second part in his guest blog series about the structure of a trilogy, using my Story Maps method to break down the Halo game universe and the classic Star Wars trilogy. [Part I here] read more
For its subject matter, Zero Dark Thirty became the most controversial movie of 2012, but the storytelling is what makes it the year’s most bold film. The screenplay breaks a lot of rules, but it works, in large part because of the weight of the subject matter and the knowledge that the audience brings into the theater. read more
The new Story Maps book is here! Story Maps: The Films of Christopher Nolan is the most detailed analysis of this brilliant director’s storytelling techniques ever written, and is sold exclusively in PDF format here…
Calling all screenwriters, story analysts, fans of The Dark Knight, Inception, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight Rises, Memento, Insomnia and The Prestige:
I invite you to attend my upcoming Webinar hosted by The Writers Store: Story Mapping the Films of Christopher Nolan!
This Webinar includes a FREE CRITIQUE, a Q&A session and an exclusive Inception Story Map (you’ll notice that I’ve never uploaded a map of Inception in my various blog posts about the film, which many call Nolan’s masterpiece.) read more
The trilogy is complete! How close did I get with my predictions?! (Not too shabby, if I may say so myself.)
We’ve seen The Dark Knight Rises twice in the theaters and we have lots to discuss about the film, the story, themes, logic issues and Bane’s voice. Read along with the free The Dark Knight Rises Beat Sheet download as you listen.
the Story Maps Screenwriting Podcast #3:
The Dark Knight Rises:
In anticipation of The Dark Knight Rises opening in theaters on July 20, I’ve been analyzing Christopher Nolan’s films, especially the first two chapters in his Batman trilogy, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. I’ve found myself buried so deep into Nolan’s complex story structures that it’s been impossible for me to watch the trailers and not start mapping the story in my head. It’s been keeping me up at night. Even before this latest one, The Dark Knight Rises – Official Trailer #3 [HD], I started to write a Full Story Map for The Dark Knight Rises, sight unseen, based solely on the limited clips and information available on the web.
There’s a lot of speculation online as to the story, but no one has attempted to break down the entire film.
Until now. read more
I’m almost done reading The Hunger Games trilogy of books on my trusty Kindle and I’m seeing the movie in a few hours (as it unleashes a Quarter Quell on the box-office in its opening weekend), so until I can offer an analysis of the screenplay or movie, I thought I’d share one of my first impressions of the story when I read the book. read more
I came across this TED talk by writer/director Andrew Stanton, whose credits include Toy Story 1-3, Finding Nemo, Wall-E and the upcoming John Carter. He’s got some really interesting things to say about the emotional connection between screenwriter (storyteller) and audience (listener), touching on WHY we love a great story, what we expect and how the storyteller should meet these expectations. read more
Gladiator (screenplay by David Franzoni and John Logan and William Nicholson; story by David Franzoni) is a true Hollywood epic that breathed new life into the swords-and-sandals genre, made Russel Crowe a star and gave director Ridley Scott another opportunity to make a brilliant, large scale Hollywood masterpiece.
The film runs at just under 2.5 hours but the story never slows, due to a rock-solid structure that’s focused on a hard-charging throughline and an ever-present controlling theme. read more
“In truth, I found this book to be brilliant.”
Keep reading, and, by the end of the book, it’s as if you absorbed the structure. There’s a harmonic resonance between the story map structure and your writer’s consciousness.
The Shawshank Redemption screenplay by Frank Darabont, based on the novella by Stephen King, is a powerful character-driven drama that covers many years in the lives of multiple characters, all tied together around the theme of “preserving hope in the most hopeless of situations.”
Dan’s 2-Minute Screenwriting School strikes again, this time with a short interview with actor Elijah Wood (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Ice Storm, Green Street Hooligans, Sin City, and the American version of the single-camera sitcom “Wilfred”).
I’m equally attracted to just simply a great script and not necessarily great character.
<–Back to Part I
What initially caught my eye about this page of text from Mario Puzo’s novel The Godfather, with hand-written notes by Francis Ford Coppola, was that this is the scene in The Godfather that I have mentioned for years to my students and clients and one that I highlight in my book, Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay: read more
The Godfather may be the most famous example of a great movie made from a poorly-written book. With the release of this page of text from Mario Puzo’s novel with hand-written notes by Francis Ford Coppola, we can see this claim in action! In other words, if you click on the image below and actually read the text, you can see how bad Puzo’s writing really was and breathe a sigh of relief that Coppola meticulously planned his translation to the screen.
Paul Brickman, writer/director of Risky Business, is one of those Hollywood enigmas. Risky Business was a very confident, stylish, well written and impressively directed film that performed well at the box-office. So why did Brickman go on to direct only one more film? (1990′s Men Don’t Leave with Jessica Lange) read more
I’ve been using Robert Rodat’s Saving Private Ryan screenplay for years as a case study for my writers and I cite it a number of times in my book Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay. The structure is rock-solid, the story is active and Rodat’s voice on the page is commanding. Here’s one of my favorite introductions of a Protagonist… read more
James Cameron’s script for Avatar was the template for an epic. At 162 minutes, the Avatar movie is a LONG epic, but here’s the deal:
Jake Sully meets his avatar eight minutes into the movie.
One can’t think “action movie” without thinking Die Hard. I remember watching the epic commercials for the film during the 1988 Academy Awards, wherein they promised the movie would be the first in decades to be presented in full 70mm wide-screen, and feature 6-track Dolby Surround Sound (yes, SIX tracks!). But that wasn’t all. What really mattered was the tagline: “It will blow you through the back wall of the theater!” read more
Good Will Hunting is one of the finest screenplays of the 90s (a very strong decade in film) and it’s a great study in character and plot dynamics. There’s a new Good Will Hunting Story Map pdf online now that you should check out.
My talented student and friend, Robert Rich, has put together a fantastic site that showcases detailed analyses of popular films using my Story Maps method of narrative deconstruction. His latest analysis is of the Good Will Hunting script. The post begins by giving the history of the screenplay. read more