Why we need stories (in 3 words or less)

May 25, 2014
Life is hard - hands grasp desperately to the top of a cliff face

I wandered in the wilderness for a long time as a writer because almost all of the screenwriting bibles fail to address the most fundamental question: Why do we need stories?

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Great Endings #10: The Ultimate Test

January 20, 2014
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest - Chief hugs a lobotomised RP McMurphy (Jack Nicholson)

When it comes to endings, you can tick all the boxes in terms of theory but ultimately there is only one thing that matters.

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Great Endings #9: Does your script have a Bow and Arrow Moment?

December 11, 2013
Thelma and Louise sail off over the Grand Canyon in their Thunderbird

A profoundly moving ending depends first on building tension. But how you release that tension is just as critical.

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Great Endings #8: What does your hero sacrifice?

December 9, 2013
Gran Torino Walt (Clint Eastwood) points his finger gun at local hoods harassing his Korean neighbours

While your audience will generally want your hero to gain something, for a truly great ending you’ll also have to make sure your protagonist loses something very dear.

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Great Endings #7: Want a massive high? First you’ll need a shattering low

December 5, 2013
Kramer vs Kramer Ted (Dustin Hoffman) hugs Billy just before he is about to surrender him

If you want to end your film on an affecting up beat, you’re going to need to precede that with a very significant down beat. (Or vice versa).

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Great Endings #6: Two key moments that set up your ending

December 2, 2013
Dead Poets Society Midpoint Mr Keating (Robin Williams) confronts Todd (Ethan Hawke) and the timid student finally reveals what lurks beneath his timid shell

An emotionally powerful ending depends on 2 key moments before the climax itself. And neither of them is the Inciting Incident or a Turning Point.

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Great Endings Step 5: What sort of transformation moves us?

November 28, 2013
Dead Man Walking Matthew Poncelet (Sean Penn) confesses to Sister Prejean (Susan Sarandon)

Most screenplays have some sort of character arc but this “transformation” typically fails to move us. Here I explore what sort of change does tend to profoundly affect your audience.

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Great Endings Step 4: Hero can do in Act 3 what they couldn’t in Act 1

November 27, 2013
Lars and the Real Girl Lars and Margo at the graveside Great Ending

In the great endings the hero typically does in the final act what they could not have done at the beginning, and this shift seems to be fundamental if you want to profoundly move your audience.

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Great Endings Step 3: Forced to make difficult choice at the climax

November 26, 2013
Strictly Ballroom Scott (Paul Mercurio) and Fran (Tara Morice) do the Paso Doble

Most screenplays suffer because the resolution comes too easily. You must make it really hard for your hero – and that doesn’t mean making the antagonist 6 inches taller or 40 IQ points smarter.

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Great Endings Step 2: Hero gets something more valuable

November 18, 2013
Schindler's List Oskar receives a ring from his Jewish workers - the Elixir

In the last post, I noted the hero rarely gets what they wanted in a profoundly moving ending. Here we explore the ecstasy they get to balance the agony.

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