Escalator – New Zealand Film Commission

I realise this post isn’t exactly timely, but I’ve been a little bit obsessed with getting our application in for Escalator over the past couple of weeks. Which we did, and I actually really enjoyed the process, even down to fitting each synopsis onto one page without dropping the font size to 6…

The following is a seriously abridged version of Blake Snyder’s Beat sheet. I use it EVERYTIME I write a script and it helps me make sure I’m not missing anything. This time I used it for all 3 synopses. I basically wrote a short paragraph for each beat, then wove them together. Do get his book (Save the Cat) if you want more detail. I highly recommend it.

Opening Image – The first impression, which sets the tone, mood, type and scope of your movie. Come back to this when you are writing your final image to make sure you are showing the change that has taken place place. This is the ‘before’ to your ‘after’.

Theme Stated – The main question you are exploring/answering in the film. What the protagonist will learn. Often this is stated around the 5 minute mark, not usually by the main character.

Set Up – Sets up the hero, the stakes, and the goal of the story. Mention the protagonists character flaws that need fixing.

Catalyst – Around 12 minutes something happens that sets off the whole adventure.

Debate – The protagonist debates whether they should accept this challenge. Should I go? Dare I go? What’s my choice? Stay here?

Break Into Two – Your character accepts the call to action and steps, (generally willingly and knowingly), into the new world.

B Story – Around a third of the way in another side story beings. It could be the love story, or introduce new characters, it gives your story more depth and dimension.

Fun and Games – Now have fun exploring your idea, the fun stuff that makes you want to tell your story goes here. I usually find this the fun and easy part to write. And this is where you’ll get the fun images for your movie poster.
eg. Jim Carrey gets to walk around and act like God in Bruce Almighty.

Midpoint – This is usually a high (which will soon collapse) or a low when the world collapses all around the hero (though it’s a false low). It is the point where the fun and games are over and we head back to the real story.

The MidPoint has a matching beat call “All Is Lost,” which is described as “false defeat.” These two points are a set. The two beats are the inverse of each other. The rule is: It’s never as good as it seems to be at the midpoint and it’s never as bad as it seems at the All Is Lost moment.

Bad Guys Close In – All seems fine, but the bad guys decide to regroup and send in the heavy artillery. It’s the point where internal dissent, doubt, and jealousy begin to disintegrate the hero’s team.

All Is Lost – All aspects of the hero’s life are in shambles. There’s no hope. A lot of great movies use the All Is Lost point to kill someone. Obi Wan in Star Wars is the best example – what will Luke do now?

Dark Night of the Soul – This is the point just before the hero reaches way, deep down and pulls out that last, best idea that will save himself and everyone around him. S/he shouts “Oh Lord, why has thou forsaken me?”. Then and only then, when the hero admits their humility and humanity, and yields control of the events over to Fate, do they find the solution. They must be beaten AND KNOW IT to get the lesson.

Break Into Three – Thanks to the characters found in the B Story (the love story), thanks to all the conversations discussing them in the B Story, and thanks to the hero’s last best efforts to discover a solution to beat the bad guys who have been closing in and winning in the A Story, lo, the answer is found.

Finale – The third act where it’s all wrapped up and the lessons learned are applied. It’s where the A story and B story end in triumph for our hero. It’s the turning over of the old world and the creation of a new world order. This is where the bad guys are dispatched (in ascending order).

Final Image – The final image in a movie is the opposite of the opening image. It is your proof that change has occurred and that it’s real.

And that’s pretty much the formula I followed, and then cut it down, down, down to fit on one page. And then tackled the log lines… I had a formula for them too. It took a bit of tweaking, and polishing, but this way helped me make sure our stories made sense, and were the best they could be, given that we had two weeks to get them down.I’m copying this straight from Blake’s blog because I can’t improve on it. Basically, after filling out the Beat Sheet above you take elements and put them into the log line.

Format:

On the verge of a Stasis=Death moment, a flawed protagonist has a Catalyst and Breaks Into Two with the B Story; but when the Midpoint happens, he/she must learn the Theme Stated, before the All Is Lost, to defeat (or stop) the flawed antagonist (from getting away with his/her plan).

Example:

On the verge of another “suit and tie” assignment, a tomboy FBI agent is assigned to go undercover in the American Miss Pageant and has a complete makeover to blend in with the other contestants; but when the pageant receives a new threat, she must learn she can be a woman and tough, before she gets thrown off the case, to defeat the warped pageant organizer bent on revenge. (Miss Congeniality)

And there you have it. Of course, this is in no way saying our application is a sure thing, but it sure was fun to do, and our synopses feel right because the structure is strong.

So good luck with your applications, and now back to the real world… hahaha – as if I have a ‘real’ world…

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