Screenwriter Scott Rosenberg Gets Extreme

Story Maps by Daniel Calvisi book coverExcerpt from Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay, coming soon.

Scott Rosenberg is a very successful screenwriter whose produced credits include Armageddon, Beautiful Girls, Things to do in Denver When You’re Dead and Gone in 60 Seconds. I had been a fan of his for years before I met him at the Austin Screenwriters Conference.

I went to an after-party with a new business card. On the back of the card I had printed the logline for my screenplay, a supernatural action script that I like to describe as “Frankenstein meets Predator” as it’s about a troubled scientist who loses his wife to a mysterious Yeti-like creature. He believes her to be dead, but years later he tracks down the monster’s lair and finds that she is not only alive, but she has become the mate of the creature. The original draft had a very extreme way of showing this at the end of Act Two turn — the scientist finds his wife and the creature having sex. But I cut this scene as I felt it was too off-putting and would alienate readers and present problems for ratings.

The actual beat was not evident in the logline when I showed it to Scott Rosenberg — it only said that he found the wife alive. He took one look at it and said:

“What if the guy gets there and the monster is f**king his wife?”

He had looked at the logline and immediately extrapolated the dramatic elements to their logical extremes.

I knew that I couldn’t hold back. I needed to go back to my original idea.

In short, it was a reminder to do what we all should do if we are being true to our story:

GET EXTREME!

I love it when I see a movie or read a script and the writer is willing to “go there,” to go all the way.

Tomorrow I’ll go into more detail on this topic with some great examples from recent movies.

Good Luck and Happy Writing,

Dan

Go to Part Two

FROM THE TRENCHES

SCOTT ROSENBERG (Armageddon,

Beautiful Girls, Gone in 60 Seconds)

TAKES IT TO THE EXTREME!

I went to an industry event with a new business card. On the back of the card I had printed the logline for my screenplay, a supernatural action script that I like to describe as “Frankenstein meets Predator” as it’s about a troubled scientist who loses his wife to a mysterious Yeti-like creature. He believes her to be dead, but years later he tracks down the monster’s lair and finds that she is not only alive, but she has become the mate of the creature. The original draft had a very extreme way of showing this at the end of Act Two turn – the scientist finds his wife and the creature having sex. But I cut this as I felt it was too off-putting and would alienate readers and present problems for ratings.

The actual beat was not evident in the logline when I showed it to Scott Rosenberg – it only said that he found the wife alive. He took one look at it and said…

“What if the guy gets there and the monster is f**king his wife?”

He had looked at the logline and immediately extrapolated the dramatic elements to their logical extremes.

I knew that I couldn’t hold back. I needed to go back to my original idea.

On that note, it’s time to…

GET EXTREME!

I love it when I see a movie or read a script and the writer is willing to “go there,” to take the story to the extremes of the dramatic conflict. Not afraid to shock, offend or make their audience uncomfortable, but to be true to the story and the dramatic elements that they have built.

In The Hangover, they tell Phil (Bradley Cooper) not to leave the baby in the car alone and he argues, “I cracked the window!” Awful…but hilarious.

In Million Dollar Baby, she’s not just hurt but she is paralyzed from the neck down. Her condition worsens and she asks Clint to euthanize her. There is no last-minute save; he must end her life to allow his arc to come to fruition.

In Sideways, Jack has already had one affair and got his nose broken in 3 places, but he still insists on sleeping with the waitress, leading him to get caught by her husband. It gets worse, when Jack makes Miles go back to the house to retrieve his wallet, and Miles gets chased by the naked husband! This represents the ultimate test of Miles’ loyalty to his friend.

I see scripts all the time where the writer is unwilling to go all the way – one of the big reasons for this is that they consider the protagonist to be themselves. They can’t have their hero lie, cheat or steal because it’s something that they wouldn’t do in real life (or at least they like to think they wouldn’t). They also refrain from having something terrible happen to their protagonist (rape, paralysis, castration, the list goes on, people) because it scares them to think of this happening to them. But this is a story and your protagonist is a dramatic construction, not you.

Besides, your life is boring. Trust me, it would not make a good movie. At the least, you’d need to make up a lot of stuff.

So be prepared to be true to your story…to go there…to go all the way…to take the story to the natural extremes of the conflict.

Go for it. And don’t be afraid to go all the way.

Why? Because not only does Drama = Conflict, but Hollywood is filled with thousands of bored workers reading the same old plot turns and story mechanics — pull the seat out from under them and they’ll love you for it.

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, null given in /home/actfours/public_html/staging/wp-content/plugins/captcha/captcha.php on line 899

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, null given in /home/actfours/public_html/staging/wp-content/plugins/captcha/captcha.php on line 901

Warning: in_array() expects parameter 2 to be array, null given in /home/actfours/public_html/staging/wp-content/plugins/captcha/captcha.php on line 903