Film Courage: You believe most movies can come down to three words, Who Wants What?
Naomi Beaty, Writer, Screenwriting Teacher and Consultant: I think that’s the basic nut of of any movie is you have a main character who is trying to achieve something because if you don’t have those basic elements (that’s not the whole story obviously), but if you don’t have those basic elements, then really what is the story? You don’t have a character to be our vehicle through a series of events and you don’t have anything propelling them forward or driving them forward if they’re not trying to achieve something.
Film Courage: If we just think we have this interesting character and different things happen to them and cool conflict-type situations but we don’t actually know what this character wants? Is that something that we have to do a lot of soul searching on? Are we this character? Do we have to see is this me?
Naomi: I do think that characters should always be our mirror or our vehicle through the story. When I say Who Wants What I’m actually talking about more external plot stuff because that’s what’s going to give you that plot framework to tell your story. The Who Wants What is figuring out what external plot thing or what destination is your protagonist aiming toward through this story knowing that helps you plan the story and write it but also indicating that to the audience is really helpful because that’s how we track where we are in the story. If we know what that character is trying to achieve that gives us like a yardstick to measure is he succeeding or is he failing? Is he making progress or is he having setbacks? That’s the push-pull of hope and fear that we have when we’re watching the movie is we’re hoping that he makes progress and gets to his destination but we’re fearing the worst. We’re fearing all these obstacles are going to derail him or end up damaging him in some way. That’s what I mean when I say Who Wants What, we need to know Who are we watching in the story, Whose story is it and What are they trying to achieve from an external plot point of view because that gives us that spine of the story or that through line that we’re tracking over the course of the movie…(Watch the video interview on Youtube here).
Naomi Beaty is a writer, screenwriting teacher, consultant and owner of WRITE+CO., along with the author of LOGLINE SHORTCUTS: Unlock Your Story And Pitch Your Screenplay In One Simple Sentence and THE SCREENPLAY OUTLINE WORKBOOK: A step-by-step guide to brainstorm ideas, structure your story, and prepare to write your best screenplay.
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