First, Write the Ending

The ancient Chinese military leader, Sun Tzu: “Begin with the end in mind.

Screenplays That Get Produced
“If you want to write screenplays that you can sell and get produced, you might want to consider writing your ending first. What? Yeah, well, check movies out that get produced. You know, those you pay $8 to $10 to see in the theater depending upon where you live and what time of the day and week you go to see them, and then read about the millions of dollars they made at the box office each weekend.

The Main Character
In almost every one of these movies, inevitably, the end is the defining moment in top box office movies. It is where the main character experiences an epiphany. The main character is challenged to confront and conquer his fatal flaw or go down to defeat. If you want to write screenplays that you can sell and get produced, you must build your screenplay to this moment in the movie. The tension must be wound so tightly that it feels as though everything is going to pop, like the drawn string releasing from a bow. SNAP!

The Villain/Antagonist
How can you create this kind of tension that is so necessary in great drama unless you know where you are going in your screenplay? The villain (in fiction, the villain represents evil) or the antagonist (in fiction, the antagonist can represent someone or something that is not evil, but who or what is competing with your main character or protagonist for the golden ring) must represent your main character’s fatal flaw. In other words, what your villain or antagonist seeks or has is what your main character has been seeking to overcome (your main character’s goal)throughout your screenplay. So, you must have your main character defeat the villain or antagonist in order to overcome his fatal flaw and win.

Movie Example
The movie, “Ransom”, starring Mel Gibson is one of many examples. Mel Gibson plays a good person. His son is kidnapped by an evil man. Through a series of events, Mel’s character has to become less and less nice with others if he is to save his son until he is confronted with defeating the kidnapper or losing his son forever. He is forced to kill the kidnapper, and in true Hollywood fashion, not only kill him, but obliterate him. Not that I condone this kind of violence in movies, because I don’t, but the example is there. When Mel’s character finally overcomes his “niceness”, it is only then that he saves his son.

Another Movie Example and Character
Another example, in “Warriors of Virtue”, a $56 million MGM movie for which I was a writer/consultant, Ryan, the main character seeks to conquer his disability, he wears a brace on one leg. In order to accomplish this, he has to overcome his fear of being too weak to succeed in physically achieving in entity. It all happens in the climax when he is confronted by evil itself, Komodo. Will Ryan win, or will Komodo win? It all circulates around Ryan’s disability which is really in his mind even though he has a disabled leg. Komodo wants to destroy to Ryan. How will Ryan escape? Or can Ryan stand his ground and defeat Komodo?

9 Writers and 4 Producers
How did nine writers and four producers arrive at this ending/climax? By determining beforehand how we wanted the movie to end. We spent days and weeks obsessing over this. The question was, what was Ryan’s goal and how does he achieve it? How could we attract an audience and incorporate this story idea? A teen boy. Did he smoke? Shoplift? Beat up other kids? Or run away from fights? Was he physically strong or physically weak? What kind of boy was Ryan? With his disability, we knew we had to come up with something that gave him no possible way to achieve his goal because that’s what high concept movies are all about, to have the main character overcome all odds and win. One of the producers came up with the suggestion that Ryan is afraid of life because of his physical disability.

Character Transformation
How could we write a story where he could learn how to overcome his fear of life because he is physically disabled, and thus, inept with respect to physical activities of most all teen boys? Well, I suggested, let’s first look at how he will be after he wins at the end of the movie. I suggested we create a character transformation arc. In order to this, I suggested that we take Ryan from a fearful boy to a confident young man. Between that kind of beginning and that kind of ending, I suggested we build the arc. So, I asked, how will Ryan defeat his fatal flaw and Komodo?

The Ending/Climax
The producers told us to each write the ending/climax. A combination of endings appeared. It wasn’t easy. Actually, writing the ending first felt like trying to empty the Pacific Ocean with a coffee cup. After several hours of musing over the endings which the writers wrote, the producers sent off two writers to write the screenplay with a couple of endings they selected. Eight months later, they called me to rewrite their draft. The first thing I looked at was the ending. The first thing I did was rewrite was the ending.

“Warriors of Virtue”
Three years later, “Warriors of Virtue”, was released in over 2,000 theaters in the United States. The Sunday afternoon I slipped into the theater with my wife to see the movie, the theater was packed with kids and parents. I watched the audience more than I watched the movie that Sunday afternoon, particularly when the ending/climax appeared. Guess what, I felt a special thrill when I noticed the audience sliding closer and closer to the edge of their seats as Ryan’s transformation evolved. At the end/climax, many of them crouched from their seats to cheer Ryan on as he defeated his fear and Komodo in a most unusual way. It was at that point I was convinced that writing endings first in my screenplays is one way to write screenplays that sell and get produced.

Donald L. Vasicek

Award-winning, writer/filmmaker, Donald L. Vasicek, dimensionalizes Olympus Films+, LLC’s services. He will bring you 35 years of writing and film making experience. Need to put your project together in a coherent fashion, but are stuck! Your storyline is rocky! What shots are you missing? Does your theme escape you, runs like an Olympic sprinter, away from you? Whatever else needs repair so that you can move to the next level in your film, you will benefit by contacting Mr. Vasicek at dvasicek@earthlink.net or 303-903-2103. Rates, fees negotiable.

PAMELA'S FALCON

PAMELA’S FALCON

“How to Establish the Dramatic Premise of Your Screenplay and Beyond”

by
Donald L. Vasicek

“How To Establish the Dramatic Premise of your Screenplay and Beyond”
by Donald L. Vasicek

So, you began your screenplay with a visual metaphor. You’ve introduced your main character, the setting, the time, the theme, and you’re introducing other major and periphery characters. You’re getting to like your story pretty well, when all of sudden you hit a block. What is your story about? This question is asked many times over each day in the film business. So, you’d better be prepared for it.

Your story is about a character who reacts to something that causes him (I’m using the male gender because I honestly haven’t had time to learn how to express both genders when writing articles) to begin acting instead of reacting to what is going on around him. The first step in your main character’s transformation (you’d better have one if you want to sell and get your screenplays produced)is when he reacts to the introduction of the dramatic premise. Until this time in your screenplay, you should have established your main character who should be in a setting and time interacting with other characters who should all be showing (I emphasize “showing” instead of “telling” since all great writing “shows” instead of “tells”) different aspects of your theme. You should have established all of these elements by about page 10 of your screenplay.

On or about page 10 in your screenplay, you show something that occurs that is out of context of what you have set up so far. This turning point in your screenplay is when you have your main character react to something that establishes the dramatic premise of your screenplay. This dramatic premise will be the plot of your screenplay. Something happens to your main character that begins his transformation arc because he is forced to react to something he has been avoiding, but he must react to it until he overcomes it, or his life will never change for the better.

In the $56 million MGM screenplay I was a writer/consultant for, “Warriors of Virtue”, Ryan, the main character is shown in school, with his friends, with his family and how he reacts to these people and this setting. Problem is, Ryan wears a leg brace, a defect in his leg he inherited with birth. Kids push him around. He can’t play on the football team. He argues with his parents. His dog barks at him.

He has a lot of problems until he’s challenged to leap over this rushing water to show other kids that he’s not a wimp. Then, his real problems begin. He leaps and falls into the water. He is swept into an alternate universe where he has to change or he’ll never be able to return to his home. The evil Komodo and his army, a village of “people” and five Kung Fu Kangaroos who need his help stand in his way. This is where his transformation arc begins. This is where the dramatic premise for the movie is established. From this point on, Ryan begins to change, and to never be the same again.

This alternate universe (no different than what your main character should be experiencing at this point in your screenplay)”attacks” Ryan. He survives the plunge, but now he’s being threatened by the evil Komodo’s soldiers in a forest. When some Kung Fu kangaroos rescue him, he begins to see that someone cares about him, and he doesn’t even know why. And miraculously, he discovers that his leg is healed.

Fearful of the village, which is made up of a loving community of people, at about page 45, Ryan foreshadows he is going to be at the end of the movie. He meets a girl, Princess Anne and he isn’t afraid of her. At midpoint, the village is attacked by Komodo and his soldiers. Though fighting valiantly, the Kung Fu Kangaroos are outnumbered. They manage to drive the invaders away, but, they know, that unless they come up with some kind of miraculous idea, Komodo is going to take over the village and kill everyone. And now, Ryan has a stake in the outcome. Where before, he cared little about himself, now, he not only cares about himself, but he cares about Princess Anne as well. But, Komodo has kidnapped her to hold her for ransom in order to force the village leaders to give in to his demands and give up the village (Komodo desires the village because of its love and its peace because this kind of behavior terrorizes him).

At about page 75, Ryan tells the village leaders and the Kangaroos that he believes he can talk Komodo in releasing Princess Anne. Interested, he tells them how.

At about page 90, Ryan, under the protection of the hidden Kangaroos, Ryan confronts Komodo about releasing Princess Anne. Komodo, struck by Ryan’s audacity, challenges him to a duel with swords. Only Komodo knows his soldiers are near to back him up, but unaware of the hidden Kung Fu Kangaroos.

Komodo, by far the superior warrior to Ryan, is about to take off Ryan’s head with his sword, when some of the soldiers show their faces. At that point, the Kangaroos show themselves. An all out battle ensues.

Ryan races to rescue Princess Anne. The battle is so fierce, the out-numbered Kangaroos, are exhausted and about ready to admit defeat, when Ryan, grabs a sword and disarms Komodo. The Kangaroos take over and defeat Komodo’s soldiers. Ryan rescues Princess Anne and saves the village.

In the closing scene, the village priest creates a mystical and spiritual avenue for Ryan to travel so that he can return to his parents and other life. After a tearful goodbye to everyone, Ryan leaves.

Upon his return to the town where he lives, his parents, friends, and the kids in school, see that his leg is healed, and so is Ryan. Even his dog accepts him.

So, you need to take your character on a journey, by establishing the dramatic premise, then roughly timing turning points in the story and in your main character. Page 1, a visual metaphor that defines the theme of the story. Page 3, a line of dialogue, or an action that directly pinpoints the theme of your story. About Page 10, establish the dramatic premise. At about Page 30, something extraordinary should happen that spins your character and story around 360 degrees and sends it off in another direction. At about page 45, foreshadow how your main character is going to be at the end of your story. Just a small action, something your character does to reveal this, like when Ryan meets Princess Anne and he is unafraid of her.

From this point forward, you must have your main character creating all of the action. In other words, he/she must be pro-active in all events. At about Page 60, midpoint, you must show that about all is lost for your main character regardless of the new strength he/she is showing. By about Page 75, have your main character change the way he/she is trying to accomplish his/her goal. At about Page 90 of your screenplay, your main character should have a direct confrontation with the villain (villain represents evil in fiction) or antagonist (doesn’t necessarily represent evil so much as representing the opposing force to your main character’s goal).

This confrontation results in your main character winning and sets up how the story is going to end. For the next several pages, your story should build to a climax where your main character goes nose-to-nose with the villain or antagonist. Here, your main character should have an epiphany. For Ryan, it was his discovery that he must overcome Komodo in order return home to his family and friends. It is here where your main character’s fatal flaw (the flaw that has caused your main character to pursue a solution to it because it is more overpowering than any other flaw)comes to the surface and must be overcome by your main character. With Ryan, it was his fear, and he overcomes it.

After the climax, wrap up all loose ends and end the screenplay as soon as possible.

And there you have it. Nine easy steps to establish your dramatic premise and beyond.

Donald L. Vasicek
Olympus Films+, LLC
“Commitment to Professionalism”
http://www.donvasicek.com
dvasicek@earthlink.net

.

“How To Establish the Dramatic Premise of your Screenplay and Beyond”

by Donald L. Vasicek

So, you began your screenplay with a visual metaphor. You’ve
introduced your main character, the setting, the time, the theme, and
you’re introducing other major and periphery characters. You’re
getting to like your story pretty well, when all of sudden you hit a
block. What is your story about?

This question is asked many times over each day in the film business.
So, you’d better be prepared for it. Your story is about a character
who reacts to something that causes him (I’m using the male gender
because I honestly don’t know what is correct when writing articles.
Someone please tell me how to deal with this so I can be
grammatically and politically correct.) to begin acting instead of
reacting to what is going on around him. The first step in your main
character’s transformation (you’d better have one if you want to sell
and get your screenplays produced)is when he reacts to the
introduction of the dramatic premise. Until this time in your
screenplay, you should have established your main character who
should be in a setting and time interacting with other characters who
should all be showing (I emphasize “showing” instead of “telling”
since all great writing “shows” instead of “tells”) different aspects
of your theme. You should have established all of these elements by
about page 10 of your screenplay.

On or about page 10 in your screenplay, you show something that
occurs that is out of context of what you have set up so far. This
turning point in your screenplay is when you have your main character
react to something that establishes the dramatic premise of your
screenplay. This dramatic premise will be the plot of your
screenplay. Something happens to your main character that begins his
transformation arc because he is forced to react to something he has
been avoiding, but he must react to it until he overcomes it, or it
his life will never change for the better.

In the $56 million MGM screenplay I was a writer/consultant for,
“Warriors of Virtue”, Ryan, the main character is shown in school,
with his friends, with his family and how he reacts to these people
and this setting. Problem is, Ryan wears a leg brace, a defect in his
leg he inherited with birth. Kids push him around. He can’t play on
the football team. He argues with his parents. His dog barks at him.

He has a lot of problems until he’s challenged to leap over this

rushing water to show other kids that he’s not a wimp. Then,
his real problems begin.He leaps and falls into the water. He is
swept into an alternate universe where he has to change or he’ll
never be able to return to his home. The evil Komodo and his army,
a village of “people” and five Kung Fu Kangaroos who need his
help stand in his way. This is where his transformation arc begins.
This is where the dramatic premise for the movie is established. From
From this point on, Ryan begins to change, and to never be the same again.

This alternate universe (no different than what your main character
should be experiencing at this point in your screenplay)”attacks” Ryan.
He survives the plunge, but now he’s being threatened by the evil
Komodo’s soldiers in a forest. When some Kung Fu kangaroos rescue him, he
begins to see that someone cares about him, and he doesn’t even know
why. And miraculously, he discovers that his leg is healed.

Fearful of the village, which is made up of a loving community of people,
at about page 45, Ryan foreshadows he is going to be at the end of the
movie. He meets a girl, Princess Anne and he isn’t afraid of her. At midpoint, the village
is attacked by Komodo and his soldiers. Though fighting valiantly, the Kung
Fu Kangaroos are outnumbered. They manage to drive the invaders
away, but, they know, that unless they come up with some kind of
miraculous idea, Komodo is going to take over the village and kill
everyone. And now, Ryan has a stake in the outcome. Where before, he
cared little about himself, now, he not only cares about himself, but he
cares about Princess Anne as well. But, Komodo has kidnapped her to hold her for ransom
in order to force the village leaders to give in to his demands and give up
the village (Komodo desires the village because of its love and its peace
because this kind of behavior terrorizes him).

At about page 75, Ryan tells the village leaders and the Kangaroos that
he believes he can talk Komodo in releasing Princess Anne. Interested,
he tells them how.

At about page 90, Ryan, under the protection of the hidden Kangaroos,
Ryan confronts Komodo about releasing Princess Anne. Komodo, struck by Ryan’s
audacity, challenges him to a duel with swords. Only Komodo knows his soldiers
are near to back him up, but unaware of the hidden Kung Fu Kangaroos.

Komodo, by far the superior warrior to Ryan, is about to take Ryan’s head with
his sword, when some of the soldiers show their faces. At that point, the Kangaroos
show themselves. An all out battle ensues.

Ryan races to rescue Princess Anne. The battle is so fierce, the out-numbered Kangaroos,
are exhausted and about ready to admit defeat, when Ryan, grabs a sword and disarms
Komodo. The Kangaroos take over and defeat Komodo’s soldiers. Ryan rescues Princess
Anne and saves the village.

In the closing scene, the village priest creates a mystical and spiritual avenue for Ryan
to travel so that he can return to his parents and other life. After a tearful goodbye to
everyone, Ryan leaves.

Upon his return to the town where he lives, his parents, friends, and the kids in school,
see that his leg is healed, and so is Ryan. Even his dog accepts him.

So, you need to take your character on a journey, by establishing the dramatic premise,
then roughly timing turning points in the story and in your main character. Page 1, a visual
metaphor that defines the theme of the story. Page 3, a line of dialogue, or an action
that directly pinpoints the theme of your story. About Page 10, establish the dramatic
premise. At about Page 30, something extraordinary should happen that spins your
character and story around 360 degrees and sends it off in another direction. At
about page 45, foreshadow how your main character is going to be at the end of
your story. Just a small action, something your character does to reveal this, like when
Ryan meets Princess Anne and he is unfraid of her. From this point forward, you must
have your main character creating all of the action. In other words, he/she must be
pro-active in all events. At about Page 60, midpoint, you must show that about all is lost
for your main character regardless of the new strength he/she is showing. By about Page 75,
have your main character change the way he/she is trying to accomplish his/her goal. At
about Page 90 of your screenplay, your main character should have a direct confrontation
with the villain (villain represents evil in fiction) or antagonist (doesn’t necessarily
represent evil so much as representing the opposing force to your main character’s goal).
This confrontation results in your main character winning and sets up how the story
is going to end. For the next several pages, your story should build to a climax where
your main character goes nose-to-nose with the villain or antagonist. Here, your
main character should have an epiphany. For Ryan, it was his discovery that he
must overcome Komodo in order return home to his family and friends. It is here where
your main character’s fatal flaw (the flaw that has caused your main character to
pursue a solution to it because it is more overpowering than any other flaw)comes to
the surface and must be overcome by your main character. With Ryan, it was his fear,
and he overcomes it.

After the climax, wrap up all loose ends and end the screenplay as soon as possible.

And there you have it. Nine easy to steps to writing a screenplay.