Monthly Archives: October 2012

Throughlines (and how to use them!)

Throughlines (and how to use them!)

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Posted by on October 21, 2012 in screen writing


Of coarse Velu Nayakan doesn’t Dance

Of coarse Velu Nayakan doesn’t Dance

Of Course Velu Nayakan Doesn’t Dance


Posted by on October 20, 2012 in Film Club


Theme And Throughlines In Screenwriting

‘Theme’ is a tricky beast. It’s the sturdy packhorse that guides us – the writer – away from the sleepy hamlet of our opening chapters, through the thick forest of dead trees, to the shiny citadel of our cathartic finale. Where we probably go and kill an evil wizard or something.

But writing stories takes time. And if you’re not in control of your theme, you’ll get tired and bored, and all those little side paths full of exotic-looking flowers will start looking like an interesting place to take a wee wander. And before you know it, you and your theme are frolicking in the foliage, while your audience twiddles its thumbs, wondering when the heck you’re going to get back that whole evil wizard thing.

So yeah, a strong, solid theme/horse. How do you get one?
Hyan Thiboutot – a very intelligent man (possibly a wizard) with 17-years of experience writing and script doctoring for North American studios – had some thoughts on the subject.

Hyan’s first advice is to identify your story’s theme. Some folk will tell you just to start writing and let the theme find you, but Hyan disagrees. The sooner you nail your theme, the quicker you can get down to writing the bits that are important.

Okay, you’ve got your theme. Hooray! Now go out and find some variations on it. And then, make sure that each of your characters inhabits one of those variations.

To illustrate this, Hyan used the Frank Darabont movie, The Shawshank Redemption. The theme of Shawshank is “Institutionalisation”, and so each character in the story represents an aspect of it. Like this:

Warden Norton (Head of Prison): Embodiment of the institution.
Captain Hadley (Head Guard): The Warden’s apprentice; his likely successor.
Bogs (Creepy Guy): Oppressed by those above him, an oppressor of those below.
Brooks (Old Guy): Institutionalised. Can’t hack life outside of prison.
Red (Morgan Freeman): Borderline. On the verge of being institutionalised.
Andy (Tim Robbins): Refuses to be institutionalised.
Note how the protagonist and main antagonist are at opposite ends of the scale, so as to create maximum amount of conflict. Pretty cool, huh?

Some films are content to have just one theme – an outer conflict if you will. That’s fine, but if you’re writing something that requires a lot of depth, you can go and add a second theme – an inner conflict. In Shawshank, it’s “Hope”, and it goes like this:

Warden Norton (Head of Prison): Manipulates people’s hopes, crushes them.
Captain Hadley (Head Guard): The Warden’s apprentice; his likely successor.
Bogs (Creepy Guy): No hope for himself, and destroys hope in others.
Brooks (Old Guy): No hope. Suicidal.
Red (Morgan Freeman): Borderline. Not sure he can believe in hope.
Andy (Tim Robbins): Embodiment of hope.
So, Shawshank’s outer conflict vs. inner conflict is “Institutionalisation vs. Hope”, and because those themes are rooted in every character, the story never loses sight of what it’s about.

Wow! Now how do we actually write this thing? Hyan says that, on average, a 90-minute film will have about a dozen ‘throughlines’… but it varies wildly (Batman Begins has 25 of them!!). A ‘throughline’ is screenwriter speak for a plot thread, and it traditionally comes in five parts (or ‘beats’):

Introduction of Character
Conflict arises
Conflict gets worse
Conflict comes to a head
Character exits
The Andy/Bogs conflict is a throughline, but so too is the sub-plot of Red’s parole. You don’t have to involve the protagonist in every throughline.

Most throughlines are dealt with in the mid-section of the story. While your Opening sets the scene, and the End narrows the focus to one or two central conflicts (the biggest ones), the mid-section is where you can set the other, lesser variations into conflict with one another.

There are a few different ways you can handle this:

Broad: Jump from throughline to throughline, until they all converge on a single point that wraps them all up.
Sequential: Deal with each throughline one by one, start to finish, start to finish.
Multi: Each throughline is completely independent; different stories that never converge (think Paul Haggis’ “Crash” – separate stories on a single theme).
Mix: Some throughlines are dealt with in their entirety, others advanced in jumps.


Posted by on October 20, 2012 in screen writing


Scene Essential Elements

Scene Essential Elements:

We can analyze a scene and make sure we are including essential elements by asking a number of questions:

1. Is it clear whose scene it is, and what he or she wants?
2. What is the conflict of the scene? Is it with one or more of the characters, with the circumstances or the surroundings of the scene, or is the conflict within the character?
3. Where and when does the scene take place? Could another time or location serve to heighten the impact?
4. What characters are present at the beginning, which ones enter during the scene, and who is there at the end?
5. Is any new character introduced? If so, does the introduction give the audience a glimpse into the nature of the character and make the character memorable enough?
6. Where were the characters before the scene started, and where are they going after it ends?
7. Has time been eclipsed since the last scene? If so, is it clear to the audience that time has passed and how much time has passed?
8. Do the actions of the characters fit their ‘through lines’?
9. Are the actions of the characters clear and motivated? Do they reveal character and/or move the story forward?
10. Is there any use of dramatic irony?
11. Is there unity of action?
12. Is the scene thematically related to the rest of the story?
13. Are the obstacles difficult enough? Are they too difficult?
14. Are the events plausible? Must disbelief be suspended? Do these events obey the “rules” of previously suspended disbelief?
15. Does the audience know what might go right or wrong within the sene?
16. Does the dialogue reflect character? Is it natural? Forced?
17. Are the inner lives of the characters revealed through action, dialogue, and reaction?
18. Are any elements of the future used? Should they be used? Does the scene bring the action of the story too much to a standstill? Or does it propel the story forward?
19. Are there visual and audio clues and suggestions?
20. Does the scene belong in the story being told?

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Posted by on October 19, 2012 in screen writing


Do’s and Don’ts when writing action movies (collected article)

Do’s and Don’ts when writing action movies

DO – Have a good villain’s plan.
DO – Have a hero with a personal hurdle to overcome.

DON’T – Have an illogical plot, or use a plot twist that doesn’t make sense.

DO – Keep the pacing quick.
DO – Have a great “high concept” idea – Story as star.

DON’T – Have a passive protagonist – he or she has to take charge and solve the problem.
DON’T – Have an idea as the villain – Poverty is the real villain in real life, but in REEL life it has to be a      PERSON. The hero has to be able to vanquish the villain.
DON’T – Have a weak ending. That’s the last scene the audience sees before leaving the theater.

DO – Use reversals to make your action scenes exciting to read.
DO – Use plot twists to keep your plot unpredictable.
DON’T – Write the first scene that comes to mind, dig for the BEST, MOST INTERESTING scene.

DO – Have strong act breaks that spin the story to the next level.
DO – Have strong structure. Structure is everything.

DON’T – Make it too easy on your hero because you want him to SUFFER! You want BAD THINGS to happen to him! If his problems are too easy, then solving them is meaningless. Make sure it’s life or death.
DON’T – Use someone else’s joke in your dialogue. You’re supposed to come up with your own jokes!

DO – Have an opening scene that draws in the reader.

DON’T – Have an action scene for no reason – make sure each scene is part of the story.
DON’T – Mix sex and violence in the same scene! It’s emotionally disturbing.

DO – Remember to tell your story VISUALLY. Movies are about people DOING things, not talking about them!

DON’T – Write boring action passages. You want the description to be as exciting as the film!

DO – Remember you’re writing for an audience so entertain them!


Posted by on October 17, 2012 in screen writing



Books that I recommend for wannabe screenwriters:

Apart from books of well-known script guru Syd Field, the following books are essential ones on script writing..

1.The Tools of Screenwriting by David Howard and Edward Mabley
2. How To Build A Great Screenplay by David Howard
3. John Truby presents The Anatomy of Story
4. 45 MASTER CHARACTERS by Victoria Lynnn Schmidt
5. Teach Yourself SCREENWRITING
6. Making a Good Writer Great for Screenwriters by  Linda Seger
8.SCREEN WRITING UPDATED new (and conventional) ways of writing for the screen – LINDA ARONSON
9.THE THIRD ACT with a great ending to your screenplay by DREW YANNO
13.SCREENWRITING the sequence approach -PAUL JOSEPH GULINO

Additional Books suggested by friends:


17.Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Every Story Ever Told By BLAKE SNYDER

18.Save the Cat!® Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of By Blake Snyder





Posted by on October 15, 2012 in screen writing




Posted by on October 15, 2012 in screen writing