Our last class–wow! That went by quickly! We started into The Counselor, the movie script we read and watched for homework.
Michael summed up the movie like this: “It’s a good example of someone who didn’t take a 4-week class on story structure.”
All of us laughed and everyone agreed that the movie was confusing and hard to follow. He then asked us to apply Rule #20 of Pixar’s 22 Rules of Storytelling: “Exercise. Take the building blocks of a movie you dislike. How would you rearrange them into what you DO like?”
So we did. We talked about what would have worked better, how we would have made our protagonist more likable, and how we could have made it a story people could actually follow. This discussion led us into the topic for the class.
The second act: the heart of our hero’s journey.
Sixty pages worth of screenplay. Probably the 60 hardest pages of the screenplay, Michael tells us.
Oh great! I can see getting through the first and third acts with their definitive points we had to hit, but I was getting worried about having to create 60 pages of compelling journey.
But he takes the second act apart in a couple of good examples for us, The Graduate and Scarface, and shows how the writers “divided, changed, and heightened” the story at the right time. Michael kept emphasizing the importance of timing, of making sure you hit the low point, the midpoint, and that you’re always escalating things throughout the second act. I loved when he said:
“Escalate action always. If you blow up the world in Act 1, what are you going to blow up in Act 3?”
We then finish up with some good advice about how to go about writing our own screenplay. He recommended that we first write in a genre that interests us. I think I my genre would be action/heist movies. I love how intricate those plots get. Check. I got a genre.
Then he said that at first pass, we just want to get it down in writing. And he even encouraged us to write something cliche at first–to solidify the main points, the bones of the story, then to go about trying to put a spin on it.
That sounds easy enough, right?
Actually, it does. At the beginning of this class, I was kind of terrified for this class. I felt like I had no business being in this class. But after 4 weeks, that fear is gone and I know that ultimately, writing is a craft and takes practice. And I can keep practicing.
Now off to start writing my first screenplay!