May 28, 2015 at 12:03PM

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You voted '-1'.

I'm having a hard time making my screenplay come full circle.

Does anyone have any tips on screenwriting and how to make a story in film come full circle? It usually just comes naturally to me and I don't really think about it. However, I am writing a short film right now and I just cannot seem to find a voice for it, and when I think I have and I go back and reread the entire script, something just feels off. Like it's lacking life.

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A friend of mine works as a script doctor and she told me 99% of the time what writers miss is the "Why". Why do things happen? Why do the characters react the way they do? Why is the scene of importance and why would anyone want to watch the film/episode?

You can have the best story and the most interesting characters, but without the Why's there's really no force driving the narrative.

May 28, 2015 at 4:26PM

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Tobias N
Director of Photography
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Thank you, I will be sure to start asking myself "why" more often, which is certainly the question I have been asking the most with my latest screenplay. It's been difficult to gather answers though. I usually go with the flow and things fit evenly but this once feels like it's missing that force behind it.

May 31, 2015 at 6:31PM

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The why's are most definitely important. I think, also, that what typically gives my stories the most life are unique characters--characters that feel alive. You can do this by giving them voices that are unique--maybe one has no filter and you just can't believe the things that come out of his/her mouth, etc. Also, quirks. Think how Kurosawa would usually give his protagonist some kind of strange thing to do to differentiate himself from the rest of the cast. If you watch Yojimbo, Toshiro Mifune will stretch his shoulder out regularly. Watch Redbeard, and he'll stroke his beard.

As far as making your film come full circle, there are many ways to do that, but the easiest and, in my opinion, one of the most satisfying ways is with plant/payoff. Plant something innocuous in the story early on and give it meaning later. In Chinatown (SPOILER), the glasses on the bottom of the Mulwray back yard pond are planted in the first act, and you forget about them, but are of supreme importance in breaking the mystery later on. In The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (SPOILER), the game that Blondie and Angel Eyes play the game where Angel Eyes gets caught by the law, Blondie gets the bounty, then shoots him down while he's got the noose around his neck. This leads to a key moment in the last scene that brings the story full circle.

Another way of making your story come full circle is through foreshadow. In Birdman (SPOILER), one of the very first conversations of the movie involves a man who failed to commit suicide despite shooting himself in the face. This is obviously pretty relevant later. There are subtler ways too. In Nashville (SPOILER), there is a character who speaks all the time of how and why JFK was assassinated. Because he was a saintly figure, a catholic, and by bullet, because the people in the South hate Catholics. There's a character who suffers a similar fate in this story and happens also to have all of those qualities.

Hope this helps!

May 30, 2015 at 11:47PM

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Thank you both. And apologies for the spam replies, I'm not sure why they are posting multiple times. As for the question and your answers, I'm seeking formulas like that I suppose, like the plant/pay off, instilling life and meaning into the film. I found myself watching Soderbergh films (Contagion, Side Effects) and feeling robbed; I loved the concepts of both films but I could never connect with the characters of either of the films. They both felt too forced, without a lively and awakening force behind it; there was no driving empathy or understanding; no way to emotionally connect with the audience. Artificial and packed with big name actors, there was no deliberate message. I wanted to fix that, create a horrific pharma movie that would be able to carry a direct message and still keep you at the edge of your seat. I've written out the message of the film, I suppose I just need to emphasize it more strategically in the film.

May 31, 2015 at 6:40PM, Edited May 31, 6:40PM

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Your screenplay is a building on fire, what will you run in and save?
Great movies are made up of five great sequences, and no bad ones.
Make the movie you want to see.
Keep writing Phamista!

June 5, 2015 at 1:54PM

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Ken Horstmann
Director/Producer
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