Reading scripts. Absolutely critical to learn the craft of screenwriting. The focus of this weekly series is a deep structural and thematic analysis of each script we read. Our daily schedule:
Monday: Scene-By-Scene Breakdown
Tuesday: Major Plot Points
Thursday: Psychological Journey
Today: Major Plot Points.
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: Short Term 12. You may download the script — free and legal — here: Short Term 12.
Written by Destin Daniel Cretton
IMDb plot summary: A 20-something supervising staff member of a residential treatment facility navigates the troubled waters of that world alongside her co-worker and longtime boyfriend.
Writing Exercise: Go through the scene-by-scene breakdown of Short Term 12 and identify the major plot points. Post your thoughts in comments and we’ll see if we can come up with a consensus.
Tomorrow we consider the script’s structure in terms of its sequences.
If you’d like a PDF of the Short Term 12 script scene-by-scene breakdown, go here.
Major kudos to Carolina Groppa for doing this week’s breakdown.
Tomorrow: We focus on the sequences in the script.
This series started here and we have 26 volunteers to do scene-by-scene breakdowns of contemporary movie scripts. The scripts we have already analyzed are in italics.
American Hustle: Jon Raymond
Argo: Nora Barry
Barney’s Version: John M
Boyhood: Jacob Jensen
Enough Said: Ali
Frankenwenie: Will King
Frozen: Christina Sekeris
Gone Girl: NateKohler1
Gravity: Matt Duriez
Hanna: John Arends
Moonrise Kingdom: Daniel Bigler
Prisoners: Melinda Mahaffey Icden
Short Term 12: Carolina Groppa
The Artist: Traci Nell Peterson
The Grand Budapest Hotel: Rob Hoskins
The Social Network: N D
The Way Way Back: Ricky
Whiplash: Steven Broughton
If you’d like to participate and do a scene-by-scene breakdown yourself, please indicate which script in comments or email me. We are using scripts available on our site here. Note some of the 2014 scripts are now available there including Belle, Birdman, Boyhood, Calvary, Get On Up, Gone Girl, How To Train Your Dragon 2, Kill The Messenger, Locke, St. Vincent, The Boxtrolls, The Fault In Our Stars, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Theory of Everything, and Wild.
For new volunteers and those who have already volunteered, but not sent me a breakdown yet, please do so as soon as possible. Thanks!
Circling back to where we started, reading scripts is hugely important. Analyzing them even more so. If you want to work in Hollywood as a writer, you need to develop your critical analytical skills. This is one way to do that.
So seize this opportunity and join in the conversation!
I hope to see you in comments about this week’s script: Short Term 12.