Let's talk breaking the rules. #SpoilerAlert
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
HOW BREAKING DOWN FILMS HELPS YOUR SCREENWRITING
As a screenwriter, you no longer have the privilege of watching movies for pure entertainment. You can try, but it's our goal to ruin it for you. Kidding... well, not really.
Watching films and breaking down the beats is one of the best ways to learn screenwriting. Knowing which beats are present or lacking and how they are functioning or not functioning in any given story strengthens your ability to execute those beats in your story. It's a great exercise.
So the next time you're watching, pull up your notes app and jot down the beats. Are they tracking? Why or why not?
let's get into leave the world behind
Based on a novel of the same name, let's call a thing a thing. This film broke all of the rules. It was 2 hours and 21 minutes of monotony. No new information gathered. No problems solved. No story pushing forward. An unlikable protagonist. And, an abrupt ending.
Now that we've stated the obvious, let's focus on whether you enjoyed the watch or not because that's what matters. Rules don't matter if it's enjoyable.
Note, this is not one of those moments where the Read was king. The novel was interesting enough to be adapted by established filmmakers. There was no gatekeeper who had to approve the script before deciding to produce it. Those parts were skipped, and Sam Esmail, the screenwriter and director, had the privilege of going straight into development.
Just because something is a good book doesn't mean it'll translate into a good film. It's an executive's job to understand this.
So, did you enjoy it? Why or why not? Think critically here. It's the best way to improve your own writing.
- I did not enjoy it for the reasons stated above.
- I did enjoy Mahershala and Myha'la.
- I did not enjoy that I did not enjoy Julia. Well done, if intentional.
- The film was obviously an expression of the director doing whatever he wanted with the camera regardless of the story.
- The cinematography was gorgeous.
- I laughed out loud at how the deer were looking at Julia and Myha'la screaming. It wasn't meant to be funny. But it was. Why? Because this was our third time encountering the deer. Each time, the deer did not serve as a threat. So though their numbers increased, their threat didn't. I saw them as allies forewarning our characters of the strangeness around them. It was obvious that they were not dangerous. In my opinion, the deer were looking at our characters as if to say, "Why are you yelling at us? We are not the problem." All in all, it was a moment to force Julia's character to change. A person who doesn't like people and has been judging Myha'la's character the entire film has now stepped into a protective mode for her. Growth... I guess.
- I, too, love FRIENDS. Rosie is a kid after my own heart.
- The theme is clear. We're all slaves to our devices, and without them, we'll turn on each other, causing the world to collapse.
- A moment that felt inauthentic - Myha'la's character using curse words when talking to her dad. Black people, in general, don't do this. It is a huge sign of disrespect no matter our age. Though some may argue that their class trumps this sign of respect, I'd beg to differ. Though there were black producers attached to this project, it felt as if none of the black voices mattered.
- Many think pieces are being written about the hidden gems about slavery throughout the film. They claim that because people missed those gems, we can't possibly understand the meaning of the film. I counter with this. I'm watching a movie not playing a game of Clue unless I'm watching a whodunnit. Connecting nuggets of a traumatic ancestry to pander to a group of people and make them feel smart is not entertaining. All of those nuggets feel detached from the characters and the story. Instead of answering questions, it bears more: Why those specific references? Why slavery? Why this ship? Why did we never see the ship again? If the nuggets cause more confusion, it doesn't matter how deep the themes are. Themes must connect and be carried out through story not just motif.
How about you? What did you learn about the film from these hidden gems?
See a list of a few of the gems below from a Twitter thread by @nhannahjones.
🟢 Super market in town is called Point Comfort, which is the landing spot of the first Africans sold into slavery in Virginia.
🟢At the fork in the road, they can go to Point Comfort, or they can go left to Fort Mose. Fort Mose was the first sanctioned town of free Black people, founded by enslaved Africans who had escaped the British and passed into Spanish territory.
🟢 The ship than runs ashore is called the White Lion, the name of that ship carrying those first Africans into slavery in America.
🟢 The radio dial, of course, is in 1619.
🟢 The main characters last names are Scott and Sanford, as in Dred Scott v. Sanford, considered worst SCOTUS ruling in history when the court determined Black people could never be citizens of America. Considered Court’s “greatest self-inflicted wound.”
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