The Problem With ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD by Erik Bork

Film Courage: I’m hoping we can talk about the Quentin Tarantino film ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD? I know you just wrote a blog post, it’s Flying Wrestler [dot] com?

Erik Bork, Screenwriter/AuthorYes.

Film Courage: **Spoiler Alert** for anyone tuning in. From the P.R.O.B.L.E.M. perspective [an acronym from Erik’s book THE IDEA: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction] what are some of the biggest problems…is it really characters? Is there one protagonist in the film I should ask first?

Erik: Well, my take on ONCE UPON A TIME IN HOLLYWOOD is that it’s set up like there are three stories, three characters that we are following (three stars of the movie).

I didn’t really feel that Margot Robbie [Sharon Tate in the film] had a story per se because she didn’t really have a problem. So there was not really a problem for her to try and address. It was more that we’re meeting her and we’re seeing what she’s like and we’re seeing her being a giddy, young actress watching a movie that she’s in and how she’s excited. We establish her as a sympathetic character. So it’s not like she has a story per se. She’s just a presence in the movie who gets some of her own scenes which is somewhat unusual but she doesn’t take up a huge chunk of the movie.

Then you have two other characters who each have a problem in their lives. I would say Leonardo DiCaprio’s character [Rick Dalton] feels like his acting career is sort of on the wane. And Brad Pitt [Cliff Booth] is not really working as a stuntman anymore and doesn’t have the life he really wants either.

So they’re both set up in a way that they have kind of a problem in their life (a generalized problem) like you normally have at the beginning of a movie.

What they don’t really have is the more traditional kind of traditional catalyst that rocks their world like one big event happens where it’s like now I’ve got a particular goal or a particular mission I’m on to try and solve this big problem that’s going to take the whole movie to solve.

It doesn’t really work in that traditional way because I would say Leo’s problem, he’s not trying to solve it, he’s more just kind of stuck in it. He gets this job acting on a TV show and he’s not necessarily that excited about it, he’s not using that to try and fix something in his acting career. He’s just doing it because he’s got this gig to do.

Same thing with Brad Pitt. He’s kind of hanging out and doing what his current job is and living his current life. So to me it’s a more traditional kind of day in the life, slice of life…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).


About : Erik Bork is a screenwriter best known for his work on the HBO miniseries BAND OF BROTHERS and FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, for which he wrote multiple episodes, and won two Emmy and two Golden Globe Awards as part of the producing team. Erik has also sold series pitches (and written pilots) at NBC and FOX, worked on the writing staff for two primetime dramas, and written feature screenplays on assignment for companies like Universal, HBO, TNT, and Playtone. He teaches screenwriting for UCLA Extension, National University and The Writers Store, and offers one-on-one consulting to writers.


BUY THE BOOK – THE IDEA: The Seven Elements of a Viable Storyfor Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork





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