Speeded Up: Faster Movies, Better Stories?
This was movie weekend for me! And wasn’t I glad to be back at the Octoplex!
Early on, that’s how I spent most weekends: seeing lots of movies. I’d go downtown on Saturday early, stay all day, check out three, four, five films (plus the trailers), and even “interview” other moviegoers during the breaks just to see if they saw what I saw.
I recommend this still. Not many careers offer the ability to meet the target market so easily.
If there’s one thing we can do to get better at this it’s: Know thy audience!
This weekend I saw only two movies (lazybones that I am): Ironman and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Liked ’em both! And throughout both, as is my habit nowadays, all I kept thinking was: there’s-the-fun-and-games-there’s-the-midpoint-there’s-the-all-is-lost-a-ha! Third-Act-Synthesis — nice!
It’s an occupational hazard. But a fun one!
And very edifying!
The 15 beats of the BS2 can easily be found in both these films. And Ironman (the #1 film two weekends in a row) clearly hits every beat (spoiler alert!). I particularly loved the Midpoint of Ironman which covered pretty much everything identified in Save the Cat! including: a midpoint party scene, “false victory” of Robert Downey Jr. (great in this!) successfully flying around LA in the scene just before, near kiss with Gwyneth Paltrow (A and B story cross), plus a “raise the stakes” reveal of Jeff Bridges as the “bad guy” with Bad Guys Close In, and the All Is Lost “whiff of death” (Downey actually dies and comes back in this particular page 75) close at hand.
These very same beats can be found in Sarah Marshall.
They can be found in all successful stories be they Indie, big tentpole movie, or featurette.
The big difference I saw this weekend however was… more scenes! The pace in each of these films is faster than I’ve ever noticed, with more half-scenes, mini-scenes, flashbacks, cut to’s, cutaways, and point-of-view shifts than any movie I can point to of late.
If you don’t think the pacing of movies has changed, and can evolve still more, take a look at the languid rollout of most movies pre-1990. Audiences steeped in cinema, and ahead of us screenwriters, get it! Faster, slicker, and quicker than before.
And as the writers of said films, we must adapt.
The most human, poignant moments from both these films are what each story is really about — and the moments that make each work. Sarah Marshall was especially successful, and in every way broke our pre-conceived notions of stereotype. I really recommend this film as an example of “the same thing only different”; it’s so like the movie 10, starring Dudley Moore, and yet brand new.
The structure for these “speeded-up movies” remains the same, and the requirements of each section of the beat sheet is, too.
But I’d be curious how you are dealing with the issue of pace in your scripts. Do you find the need to move it along? Do you find any explanation to be over-explanation? And what special new tricks do you find help break the rules in a way that “gives us the same thing, only different?”
p.s. We had some great news today: this article in the L.A. Times. I’d like to personally thank writer Jay Fernandez, Anne Lower of Final Draft, and of course Peter Cook and the kids at Camino Nuevo Charter School for their outstanding efforts in making this outreach a great success!