Fall movie poster

See how Fall hits Blake Snyder’s 15 story beats!

With the elevated tagline “Fear reaches new heights,” Fall was a successful Lionsgate theatrical film that debuted on August 14, 2022, where it grossed nearly six times its production cost. Though the three million dollar-budgeted film covers many of the familiar tropes of the survival thriller, it added a couple of fresh twists in the third act. So if high-flying fear is your game, the film is worth a look.

Additionally, producers absolutely love, love, love this kind of contained thriller: a handful of characters, a seemingly impossible situation, an inescapable threat, and a redemption story for the primary protagonist—all in a film that’s not too expensive to produce. (I have two optioned for pre-production.) So, my advice to you, either as a novice or a seasoned screenwriter, is find your twist on this contained thriller genre and write your own. You might just find it getting produced, or at least optioned. Signed, your fighting friend soldiering in the trenches. ;-)

Logline: A traumatized tragedy survivor finds herself in danger again when her friend convinces her to climb an abandoned 2,000-foot TV tower out in the middle of nowhere.

Genre: Dude With a Problem (Nature Problem)

Cinematic Cousins: Open Water, The Shallows, 127 Hours, 47 Meters Down, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Crawl, Frozen (2010)

Running time: 107 minutes

Written by: Jonathan Frank & Scott Mann
Directed by: Scott Mann

Opening Image: A wide vista drone shot of cloud-shrouded jagged mountains.

Set-Up: Becky Connor (Grace Caroline Currey), Danyal Connor (Mason Gooding), and Shiloh Hunter (Virginia Gardner) scaling the face of a mountain. Becky and Dan are married. Hunter’s the third wheel. The husband and wife have a strong relationship. When he makes a wrong move of putting his hand in an eagle’s nest, he falls. Becky screaming…

Becky looks down
Becky watches as her husband falls to his death.

FALL title over. (4 minutes in)

Becky and Dan smiling together
Becky and Dan in a photograph. Not the man she thought she knew.

Theme Stated: Drunk and depressed, Becky is confronted by her father, James (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), outside a bar. It’s been almost a year since the accident. They’re estranged since he never liked Dan. Dad tells her that she must start living again. Life and death is the theme. (7 minutes)

Becky's father stands in the dark
Becky’s father delivers the unsolicited Theme Stated advice right on time.

Set-Up (cont’d): She wants her father to leave her alone. Back at home, Becky contemplates suicide.

Catalyst: Hunter shows up. She proposes climbing B-67, a decommissioned 2,000-foot TV tower. Her plan is to get Becky out of the house and scatter Dan’s ashes, which are still sitting in a cardboard box a year later.

Hunter talks to Becky
Hunter convinces Becky to climb new heights again—literally.

Debate: Becky thinks of Dan’s philosophy: “If you’re scared of dying, don’t be afraid to live,” epitomizing the theme. She agrees to go.

Hunter likes doing dangerous stuff that she monetizes on YouTube to her 60,000 followers. The tower B-67 used to be the tallest structure in America. Now it’s an old, rusted relic. It’ll be torn down in a year.

In the retro diner near the tower, Becky needs to charge her phone. There’s no charger. So Hunter rigs something using the metal ends of the charger and a light socket. (This will pay off in late Act Two.)

The morning before the ascent, Becky has a traumatic dream of her with Dan. He taps out the code of I-LOVE-YOU (1-4-3). (That will pay off later, too.)

As Becky and Hunter are pulling out of the motel parking lot, they’re nearly hit by an 18-wheel truck. A death omen of things to come. And a no trespassing sign reads “danger of death.” Another death omen.

As they’re approaching the tower, a lamb is being eaten by vultures. It’s still alive. Hunter makes a joke about it. But the sight affects Becky because of Dan’s death. Another omen of death.

Hunter introducing the tower—giving us all the need-to-know history and information. Becky decides she can’t do it. Hunter tells her to face her fears. Says she’s so much stronger than she think she is.

Becky and Hunter look up
Becky and Hunter check out the tower—it’s much bigger up close.

Break into Two: At 21 minutes, Becky starts climbing the tower with Hunter. They’ve itemized all the equipment they have, and all the facts and height about the structure. So we know exactly what we’re facing to this point.

Becky climbs the pole
Becky reluctantly makes the ascent with her daredevil friend.

Fun and Games: As they’re climbing the corroded B-67 ladder, it’s revealed that they’re causing stress on the rickety tower.

To alleviate the tension, Hunter tells Becky to think of a nursery rhyme. Becky immediately thinks of “ashes, ashes, we all fall down…” Another death omen.

B Story: Dan—and the secret of who he was—is the supporting story, and it emphasizes the theme of “living your best life,” as we’ll learn later.

Fun and Games (cont’d): At 32 minutes, they reach the summit of the tower. (Which is the promise of the premise and also the “poster moment,” as it’s literally the movie poster). But, uh-oh, the ladder has lost some bolts. Descending will be more treacherous than the ascent.

Hunter and Becky at the summit of the pole.
Hunter and Becky reach the summit—success!

Hunter hangs off the side of the tower by one hand, recording it with a drone. Then she tells Becket she must “kick fear in the dick” and do the same. Becky is hesitant naturally, but she ends up doing it successfully. (33-35 minutes)

Hunter balancing off the tower top.
Hunter’s a thrill seeker who goes to new heights for her followers.

Hunter shows Becky pictures of their past climbs and victories together (even pole dancing), and says next time she is afraid of anything, look at the pictures, so she will know she has nothing to be scared about.

Becky says a eulogy and dumps Dan’s ashes into the desert wind. It’s actually a touching moment for her and Hunter, who finally realizes the impact of his death after pushing it away for so long.

At 38 minutes, they began their descent. However, the corroded ladder now missing bolts breaks. Becky is hanging literally by a thread, a rope attached to Hunter. Hunter has managed to wrap the rope around the spiral of the tower and pulls Becky to safety. Becky loses her backpack in the effort. It has water and the drone in it. They didn’t think to pack food or even protein bars. Becky’s leg is shredded, bleeding badly. Hunter bandages it with her shirt.

Becky catches herself falling from the tower.
The corroded ladder tumbles and Becky almost goes with it.

The corroded ladder tumbles and Becky almost goes with it.

They discover binoculars and a flare gun in an emergency box.

Stuck at the top of the tower, Becky films Hunter. Hunter comes clean about life being too short so you have to challenge yourself, reflecting the theme. She is the most genuine she’s ever been. Becky is impressed with her candor.

Becky and Hunter at the top of the tower
A towering problem with no easy escape.

They try to get help by posting onto Hunter’s YouTube page. Hunter tries to climb down with a rope to get a signal. But that doesn’t work. So they drop her phone off the tower using a red converse high-top padded with her much hated push-up bra. Unfortunately, it isn’t enough padding and the phone smashes.

In the interim, the vultures circle, waiting for their next meal.

Hunter and Becky try to get the attention of a hiking guy and his dog on the ground. But the guy’s too involved with his phone and he doesn’t notice Becky’s shoes being thrown down at him.

Midpoint: They fire a flare at the hiker’s camp on the ground. Hoping to get his attention. They finally do—a false victory. (56 minutes) Becky starts to suspect that Hunter and Dan had an affair, tying A and B Stories together.

Becky and Hunter sit on a small platform on the tower.
Becky learns disturbing secrets about her friend Hunter.

Bad Guys Close In (A Story): Instead of help, the hiker and his friend steal Hunter’s truck. (Just like in the similar thriller, The Shallows, with that dude stealing Blake Lively’s gear on the beach instead of helping.)

Bad Guys Close In (B Story): Night falls. The wound on Becky’s leg grows worse. Becky notices a “143” tattoo on Hunter’s foot. Dan’s code for I love you. Turns out they had an affair for four months.

All Is Lost: As the sun rises, Hunter confesses to her affair with Dan when Becky and Dan were engaged. She ended it because she claims she loved Becky more. After Dan died, she didn’t have the strength to help Becky, so she stayed away almost a year. A whiff of death moment.

Dark Night of the Soul: The backpack’s still stuck on the antenna part of the tower. Hunter climbs down and manages to get it. As she’s climbing up, she falls, but she manages to fall onto the antenna, sparing her life. Her hands are shredded from the rope, so Becky must pull her up to safety.

Hunter lowers herself down the tower
Hunter goes for the drone, trapped lower on the tower.

They write a note and place it on the drone. They plan to send it to the hotel during check-out time for help. Becky must navigate the drone as Hunter’s hands are shredded.

Hunter on the pole in danger of falling
Hunter in a problem that she created in the first place.

They send out the drone, but the internal battery is dying. They must bring it back in.

On the second night, Becky has a nightmare: losing Hunter and being attacked by vultures, and then the predatory birds eating Hunter’s corpse.

Becky gets the idea to charge the drone from the light (which was established in Act One).

Barefoot, Becky must employ her pole-dancing skills (also set up in Act One) to climb 30 feet up to the light on top of the tower.

Becky climbing the tower in terror
Going higher still—Becky must recharge the drone.

She runs into problems trying to make a current circuit for the outlet. She ends up employing her wedding ring, reflecting the B Story theme.

She must hang out there for hours until the drone charges. The vultures dive bomb her, smelling the dried blood on her leg.

Break into Three: The drone’s now fully charged. Again, Becky and Hunter plan to fly it to the motel during check out time at 10 AM when it will be the busiest. Becky talks about her father. How they used to bond watching wrestling. Tying A and B Stories together as they once had a life together.

Five-Point Finale:
Gathering The Team: Drone’s ready. Becky writes a note for help.

Executing the Plan: Becky sends out the drone. It’s looking good—they’re gonna be saved!

High Tower Surprise (A Story): An 18-wheeler truck runs into the drone. The truck driver drives off. The drone is in the road. The puzzled driver leaves it there. Drives on.

High  Tower Surprise (B Story): Big twist: Hunter died when she was going to retrieve the backpack. Becky is all alone. She’s been alone. She only imagined Hunter alive as a coping mechanism to her plight.

Becky screams while swinging from the pole
Becky must fight her deepest fears to survive.

Dig Down Deep: Becky does The Blair Witch Project and records her final words to her father, tying A and B Stories together. Becky’s father tries to call her and message her, but to no avail. Becky kills a vulture and eats it; she’s gone primeval. Eating the meat raw, she’s getting the energy that Hunter told her that she needed. Becky can only rely on herself now.

Executing the New Plan: Becky climbs down to get Hunter’s other shoe so she can drop her phone and get a signal. She’s gone native. In Joseph Campbell terms, a Master of Both Worlds—part city girl, part feral. She texts her dad and then loads her phone into Hunter’s shoe. She sticks it into Hunter’s decomposing body and shoves her off (which is totally bad ass). The corpse is just the right “padding” to protect the phone this time. Success! Her dad shows up at the same time the rescue crew does.

Final Image: Becky and her father are reunited. (We didn’t see the rescue crew pulling her off the tower.) The story ends with Becky giving a message that you have to do something to make you feel alive—that’s what’s important, once again… and for the last time… reflecting the theme.

A relaxed Becky on the ground with the clear sky behind her
Becky Morgan ends up solving her plight on her own. And finding redemption.