Steve Kaplan: New skills start to appear in Melissa McCarthy’s case [SPY movie]. Courage, boldness, everything that she wasn’t in the Normal World, back in her basement office at the CIA, that vermin-ridden basement office. So you have the Reaction and then there’s a part of the movie that we call Connections. Connections is the part of the movie when your characters start to find unexpected allies and (sometimes unexpected) enemies.
In TROPIC THUNDER, the two main actors, Robert Downey, Jr. who is playing an Australian who is playing a black sergeant in Vietnam is always at odds with Ben Stiller’s lead actor and they barely talk to each other. They don’t get along. But in the middle part of the movie they start to actually talk to each other. It’s the first time that they are actually trying to make a connection. Connection is when things slow down in the movie where you have heart-to-heart conversations. You tell the truth about each other.
I guess the one thing, the one caveat that I’d like to put out there is that all these elements are in all these comedy movies, but they’re not necessarily in the same order. After connections and new directions and characters get what we call the Discovered Goal you have disconnections which is the dark night of the soul. That is usually the part about 3/4 of the way or 4/5ths of the way through where everything seems lost and your hero is going to fail and then somehow they find the power or the strength one more time and they win. Now normally that comes at about 3/4s of the way, 4/5ths of the way through the movie.
In GROUNDHOG DAY, however, that dark night of the soul comes in at about midway through it.
It happens after the sequence in which Bill Murray, who because he’s found the skill to get whatever he wants by simply being able to anticipate what’s going to happen because he’s living the day over and over and over again, he’s able to rob a truck full of money, he’s able to sleep with all the women in town, and then he gets the idea that he wants to have a relationship Andie MacDowell (the producer Rita). Even though he tried over and over again, it always ends with this great slap montage…slap, slap, slap. And now we’re only about half way through the movie and that’s the time in which he has lost all hope. He goes through this great series of suicide attempts. They are attempts because he does kill himself but he wakes up the next day. In fact, GROUNDHOG DAY is a really interesting structure. It’s basically structured after the long first act in which it sets everything up. It’s structured like the Five Stages of Grief of Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross. There is denial, there is a very short section of anger, and there’s a long negotiation period then there is depression, and finally there is acceptance. But in GROUNDHOG DAY there is three acts to acceptance. There is getting [the character] Rita to believe in him, that’s an entire act. Then there is the act of trying to save the old man in which he’s got to come to grips with the fact that he’s not God, he’s simply a man going through an impossible situation. And finally there is the final act of acceptance in which he simply accepts his fate. He is never going to live to see Feburary 3rd. He is always going to be living in February 2nd and he’s o.k. with it. He’s found out that the purpose of life for him is simply to do as much good as he can in the one day he has.
So that’s a way in which just understanding that this framework, this structure isn’t a cookie cutter form that must be followed. That all these parts of the journey happen, they don’t necessarily happen all in the same order or all at the same time. The thought that certain things have to happen on page ten and that certain things have to happen on page twenty-six is probably not a really good way to approach writing a screenplay.
QUESTION FOR THE VIEWERS: Can you name another movie that uses the 5 Stages of Grief by Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross as its story structure?
Check out Steve’s Book – THE HIDDEN TOOLS OF COMEDY:
The Serious Business Of Being Funny
CONNECT WITH STEVE KAPLAN
SURVIVING SKOKIE: They survived the horrors of the Holocaust and came to America to put the past behind. For decades they kept their awful memories secret, even from their children. But their silence ended when a band of neo-Nazi thugs threatened to march in their quiet village of Skokie, Illinois “because that is where the Jews are.”
Surviving Skokie is an intensely personal documentary by former Skokie resident Eli Adler about the provocative events of the 1970s, their aftermath, his family’s horrific experience of the Shoah, and a journey with his father to confront long-suppressed memories.
“Hi, Mom!” Zooppa has partnered up with T-Mobile on a brand new project! T-Mobile gives its customers unlimited data and texting in over 140 countries and destinations—at no extra cost. T-Mobile wants to inspire those customers to travel and get off-the-beaten path—to be explorers, not tourists—and unlock adventures they can share when they take their phones. The ‘Hi, Mom’ project focuses on sharing the most extreme moments of adventure outside of the United States with family and friends back at home.
The project is open for submissions until February 21st, 2017 at 4:00 PM PST. There are $40,000 in total cash awards available that will be assigned to the top eight videos chosen by T-Mobile. In addition to the cash awards, all winning videos will also be featured on T-Mobile’s social and web platforms or as a part of a compilation celebrating adventurous moments from around the world.
THE WEEKEND SAILOR is a new feature documentary about the unexpected victory of the Mexican yacht Sayula II in the first crewed sailing race around the world in 1974. The most demanding sailing quest in history.
Sailor, Ramon Carlín visits his rebellious son, Enrique in the United Kingdom and comes across a magazine advertising a sailing race around the world. Although he had been sailing casually for two years, Ramon embarks on this race and brings his son along as an opportunity to not only teach him discipline but real life experiences as well.
Catch 22: based on the unwritten story by seanie sugrue: With Hurricane Sandy looming on the horizon, five hard-lived friends come to from a send-off celebration alongside an unexplained dead girl. What are friends for?
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT): Zooppa and Nickelodeon are inviting filmmakers and motion graphic artists from around the world to reimagine TMNT on a global scale through depicting what they are up to in various home towns or cities. The goal is to show how the Turtles would come to life in any given location, using local city or pop culture influences to help tell the story. Zooppa and Nickelodeon are looking for imagination and creativity, the videos made should be a fun way to share Turtle stories from across the globe––authenticity is key!
The project is open for submissions until February 23rd, 2017 at 4:00PM PST. There are $25,000 in cash awards available to the top 10 videos that will be chosen by Nickelodeon.