One of my favorite kinds of films is easily the ones where they have to assemble a team to go do something.

I think these screenplays showcase a writer's ability to create a diverse and exciting cast. Plus, they often have twists and turns that keep us on the edge of our seats as we watch a plan take action.

These kinds of movies are malleable to several different genres as well.

But they can be a pain in the butt to write. You have to balance worldbuilding, character development, and plot while moving the pages forward.

Today, I will guide you through writing an "assembling the team" movie. Hopefully, this helps you get well on your way to spec screenplay success.

Let's dive in.


How to Write an "Assembling The Team" Movie

Deborah "Debbie" Ocean, played by Sandra Bullock, and Lou Miller, played by Cate Blanchett, sitting on a park bench in 'Ocean's 8'

'Ocean's 8'

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

"Assembling the Team" movies, also known as "Recruitment" or "Gathering the Heroes" films, are a beloved and timeless subgenre of cinema.

These stories revolve around a central protagonist or leader who embarks on a mission or quest, recruiting a diverse and skilled team of individuals to accomplish a common goal.

Let's look at a few examples.

Examples of the "Assembling a Team" Movie

The Avengers in 'The Avengers"'The Avengers'

Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

There are numerous examples of "Assembling the Team" movies across various genres, showcasing the diversity and popularity of this narrative structure.

Here are some notable examples:

  1. Ocean's Eleven (2001): A group of skilled and charismatic thieves comes together to execute a complex heist at three Las Vegas casinos simultaneously.
  2. The Avengers (2012): Earth's mightiest heroes, including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye, unite to battle Loki and his army threatening global destruction.
  3. The Magnificent Seven (1960): Seven gunfighters are hired to protect a small Mexican village from a bandit's ruthless raids.
  4. The Dirty Dozen (1967): A group of convicted military prisoners is tasked with a dangerous mission to infiltrate and disrupt a Nazi chateau during World War II.
  5. The Italian Job (2003): A team of skilled thieves reunites to execute a heist in Venice, Italy, targeting a precious cargo of gold.
  6. Inception (2010): A skilled team of specialists enters people's dreams to steal their secrets in a high-stakes corporate espionage mission.
  7. Mission: Impossible series (1999-present): Ethan Hunt leads a team of IMF agents in various missions that involve espionage, high-tech gadgets, and daring stunts.
  8. A-Team (2010): Four ex-special forces soldiers form a rogue team to clear their names and uncover a conspiracy.
  9. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001): In this epic fantasy adventure, a diverse group of beings, including hobbits, elves, dwarves, and men, forms the Fellowship to accompany Frodo Baggins on his quest to destroy the One Ring and prevent the dark lord Sauron from enslaving Middle-earth.
  10. The Expendables (2010): A team of elite mercenaries, led by Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone), is hired to overthrow a dictator in a Latin American country. The team consists of action stars from various eras, including Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lundgren, and Bruce Willis.
  11. Inglourious Basterds (2009): A group of Jewish-American soldiers, led by Lieutenant Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), are tasked with killing Nazis in occupied France during World War II.
  12. The Seven Samurai (1954): In this classic Japanese film directed by Akira Kurosawa, seven samurai warriors are hired to defend a village from marauding bandits.
  13. Mystery Men (1999): A group of eccentric and amateur superheroes with quirky powers, including Mr. Furious, The Shoveler, and The Blue Raja, come together to save their city from a supervillain.
  14. The Great Escape (1963): Based on a true story, this World War II film follows a group of Allied prisoners of war who form a plan to escape from a high-security German prison camp.

These movies showcase the excitement, camaraderie, and adventure that comes with assembling a team of characters, each with their unique skills and personalities, to accomplish daring and challenging missions.

So how can you write your own?

Outlining an Assembling the Team Movie

The entire team in 'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

'The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'

Credit: New Line Cinema

When I sit down to write, I chase treatments, beat sheets, and outlines before I open my screenwriting software to tackle the story.

And with a story about a team, you really need to adjust the outline accordingly.

Here’s the way I see our Screenplay Outline:

  1. Unraveling The Map: Do you have an opening scene that defines the movie?
  2. The Launch Point: Where are we, and who are we with?
  3. The First Leg: What’s a normal day look like in this world?
  4. Change Course: What sets our characters off on their journey from normalcy?
  5. The Foot of the Mountain: OK, we’re going on this journey together.
  6. Climbing The Side: It starts hard, but you get used to the problems as you go.
  7. Through The Cave: Do you have a B story? Set that story off on its own now too.
  8. Reassess the Problem: You’re in the middle. Is there another way to get it done?
  9. Try and Fail: Things begin to fall apart, can they handle it?
  10. The Fall - The worst thing happens, something so bad you don’t think you can get up.
  11. The Hidden Clue: What do your characters discover about themselves/the problem that they never saw before?
  12. Race to the Finish: They’re up and running no matter what.
  13. The Treasure Chest: Did they get what they came for?
  14. Where We Go From Here: Show us the world in a new light, hint what’s next.
Now, we need to tailor these beats to the movie we want to write.

An Assembling the Team Movie Outline Template

The team in 'Seven Samurai'

'Seven Samurai'

Credit: Toho

I took the liberty of making a sample outline template for you to rip off. You should not consider this to be a rigid formula, but one to help get your creative juices flowing in this arena.

Check it out below.

Act 1:

  1. Introduce the Protagonist:
    • Describe the main character, their background, and their current life situation.
    • Establish the protagonist's central goal or mission that drives the story.
  2. Introduction of the Antagonistic Force:
    • Reveal the existence of a powerful threat or challenge that poses a significant risk to the protagonist's world or the world at large.
    • Highlight the stakes involved if the antagonist's plan is successful.
  3. Call to Action:
    • Present an event or incident that forces the protagonist to step out of their comfort zone and take action to confront the threat.
    • Establish the protagonist's initial reluctance or conflict in accepting the call to action.
  4. Meeting with the Catalyst:
    • Introduce a key character who serves as a catalyst for the protagonist's journey.
    • The catalyst may provide crucial information, resources, or motivation for the protagonist to embark on their mission.

Act 2:

  1. Assembling the Team:
    • The protagonist starts gathering a team of diverse and skilled individuals, each possessing unique talents or expertise.
    • Explore the process of recruiting team members, including their initial reluctance, if any.
  2. Team Building and Training:
    • Show the team members getting to know each other, forming relationships, and bonding over shared experiences.
    • Depict their training and preparation for the upcoming challenges they will face.
  3. Raising the Stakes:
    • Introduce obstacles, conflicts, and setbacks that test the team's cohesion and capabilities.
    • Highlight personal challenges or conflicts among team members that must be resolved for the greater good.
  4. Midpoint Twist:
    • Present a significant turning point in the story, which raises the stakes even higher or alters the team's objectives.
    • The midpoint twist may introduce a new revelation, a betrayal, or a revelation about the antagonist's true intentions.

Act 3:

  1. Separate Missions:
    • The team splits up to accomplish different tasks or retrieve specific items necessary for their ultimate goal.
    • Each team member faces unique challenges and adversaries during their individual missions.
  2. Confrontation with the Antagonist:
  • The team gathers to confront the main antagonist or their forces in a climactic showdown.
  • Tension and conflict escalate as the team faces overwhelming odds.

Final Battle:

  • The team engages in a high-stakes battle with the antagonist or their forces, showcasing their combined skills and teamwork.
  • The climax leads to the resolution of the central conflict and the attainment of their mission's primary objective.
  • Depict the aftermath of the final battle, exploring the consequences of their actions and sacrifices made.
  • The team reflects on their journey and the bonds they have formed.

Resolution:

  • Conclude the story with the team members going their separate ways or deciding to continue working together for future missions.
  • Show how the protagonist's life has transformed as a result of their experiences.
  • End with a memorable and satisfying closing scene that encapsulates the spirit of the team's adventure and celebrates the power of unity, courage, and collaboration.
Now that you have that, I want to spend some time going through some of what I consider to be the key beats of these movies. We can extrapolate lessons from them that you can use to write your masterpiece.

Develop a Compelling Protagonist

Captain Virgil Hilts, played by Steve McQueen, riding a motorcycle in 'The Great Escape'

'The Great Escape'

Credit: United Artist

At the heart of every great "Assembling the Team" movie is a strong and relatable protagonist.

You want someone to be the face of this story. sure, there will be many other faces, but think about this person as the center of the poster.

Who is going to unite this crew and take them to glory or defeat?

Your lead character should have a clear goal or mission, which will drive the story forward. Audiences should be able to empathize with their struggles and motivations. A well-rounded and flawed protagonist with personal stakes in the quest will add depth to the narrative.

Defining the Quest (and its Stakes)

A group drinking at a German pub in 'Inglorious Bastereds'

'Inglorious Basterds'

Credit: The Weinstein Company

Why is this a group project? And what's at stake if they fail?

You need a justification for the team to be assembled. It doesn't have to be flowery, but it needs to provide us with a reason no single man or woman could complete this task.

The quest or mission at the heart of your movie should be grand and captivating. Whether it's saving the world from destruction, pulling off a heist, or defending a community, the stakes must be high.

The higher the stakes, the more invested the audience will be in seeing the team come together and succeed.

Building Out The Team

The team from 'The Dirty Dozen'

'The Dirty Dozen'

Credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The most fun you're going to have writing is building out the team. You get to introduce the audience to new personalities, and new storylines to raise the stakes.

Each new addition should come with its own mini-arc and challenges that the protagonist must overcome to persuade them to join the cause.

This way, you can show us some of the protagonist's skills along with the individuality of the people they meet along the way.

Ensure diversity in your team, not just in terms of ethnicity and gender but also in their abilities and strengths. This diversity will create dynamic interactions and conflicts among the characters.

Conflict and Tension Within the Ranks

The team in 'Ocean's 8'

'Ocean's 8'

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

When writing, remember it should not all be rosy. You want people to butt heads, lose trust, and have a hard time getting along.

You're earning the team dynamic.

Conflict is the lifeblood of storytelling, and an 'Assembling the Team' movie thrives on the tensions between team members.

Each character should have their own motivations and arcs that may not always align with the greater good. Clashes of personality and differing opinions will make the team's cohesion all the more rewarding to watch as the story progresses.

And when they come together, it will feel all the more rewarding.

Everyone Needs a Job and a Purpose

Bilbo Baggins, played by Martin Freeman, in 'The Hobbit'

'The Hobbit'

Credit: New Line Cinema

At its core, an 'Assembling the Team' movie is about unity and collaboration. Themes of teamwork, trust, and sacrifice should be woven into the narrative. The team should be more than the sum of its parts, with the combined efforts of the characters leading to their ultimate triumph.

You have to admit, those scenes where it all comes together and things go right feel amazing. It's why we go to the movies.

So why not specify what each team member does well and let it come out in the narrative?

Every team member should have a specific role and contribution to the mission. Avoid having characters who merely fade into the background; instead, ensure they all have their moments to shine.

Utilize their unique skills to overcome challenges and make their inclusion in the team indispensable.

What are the Tropes of an Assembling the Team Movie?

The Justice League in 'Justice League'Justice League'

Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

Of course, these movies always come with a list of tropes you see in many of them. Consider them cliches that can help you guide audience expectations.

These tropes contribute to the excitement, camaraderie, and dramatic tension in these films.

Here are some common ones you may see:

  1. The Reluctant Protagonist: The central protagonist is usually initially reluctant to take on the mission or gather a team. They may have retired from their previous life or be content with their current situation until an event or external force compels them to step back into action.
  2. The Call to Adventure: An event or crisis serves as the catalyst that propels the protagonist into action. The call to adventure disrupts the protagonist's ordinary life and sets them on the path to assemble the team.
  3. Gathering a Diverse Team: The protagonist recruits a team of individuals with diverse backgrounds, skills, and personalities. Each member brings something unique to the table, creating a well-rounded and complementary group.
  4. Training Montage: After the team is assembled, a training montage is often used to show their development and bond as they prepare for the challenges ahead. This sequence can be both entertaining and emotional as team members overcome their differences and learn to work together.
  5. The Meet-Cute or First Encounter: When introducing team members, there is often a meet-cute or first encounter between the protagonist and each recruit. These interactions can be humorous or tense, depending on the personalities involved.
  6. Internal Conflict within the Team: Assembling a diverse team inevitably leads to conflicts and disagreements among team members. Personalities clash, and differing opinions about how to proceed with the mission can create dramatic tension.
  7. The Midpoint Twist: Around the midpoint of the story, there is often a significant plot twist or revelation that alters the team's objectives or raises the stakes. This twist can bring unexpected challenges and force the team to adapt their approach.
  8. The Sacrifice: A team member may make a sacrifice during the course of the mission, emphasizing the risks and personal costs involved in their quest. This sacrifice can strengthen the team's resolve and add emotional weight to the story.
  9. The Climactic Showdown: The team faces the main antagonist or their forces in a high-stakes and action-packed climax. This showdown tests the team's abilities and unity, and the outcome determines the success of their mission.
  10. The Team's Moment of Doubt: At some point, the team may face a moment of doubt or setback, where it seems their mission is destined to fail. This moment often serves to strengthen their resolve and commitment to completing the task.
  11. The Power of Unity: Ultimately, the story emphasizes the power of teamwork and collaboration. The team's combined efforts, utilizing their individual strengths, are what enable them to overcome the challenges they face.
  12. The New Beginning: After completing their mission, the team members may go their separate ways or decide to continue working together on future endeavors. The experience has transformed their lives, and they have formed lasting bonds.

While these tropes provide a familiar framework for Assembling the Team movies, the best films within this subgenre find creative ways to subvert expectations and deliver unique and engaging stories that resonate with audiences.

Summing Up How to Write an 'Assembling The Team' Movie

Writing an "Assembling the Team" movie requires a delicate balance of character development, conflict, and epic storytelling.

By creating a strong protagonist, a diverse and engaging team, and exploring themes of unity, you can craft a thrilling cinematic journey that resonates with audiences for years to come.

Remember to invest time in character arcs, establish high stakes, and inject elements of camaraderie and humor to make your movie an unforgettable experience.

Embrace the inherent sense of adventure and excitement this subgenre offers, and you'll be well on your way to creating an epic film that celebrates the power of teamwork and collaboration.

Now get to writing.