Please print and turn in your film journal paper (if you have not yet done so). Please remember to use MLA format and include a works cited page. See instructions on the blog below (Feb. 26 & Jan. 28 & your handout from the beginning of this course...)
Today, please begin working on a short film idea for your short film script project. In the next few classes in the lab, I'll point you to a few short, short films as models--including the work from previous creative writing students.
To start, let's continue our exploration of the 1930's film with the Little Rascals' film, directed by Hal Roach entitled: Spooky Hooky
(1936, 11 min.) (hooky meant skipping school...) As you watch, notice the depiction of Black characters--we'll examine this issue a little more in our next feature film: King Kong
(1933). Furthermore, watch the film for its tight storyline. Identify:
- The status quo & the inciting incident (what is normal life like for these kids, and then what occurs to change their situation?)
- The rising action (what events occur that complicate the rascals' situation?)
- The climax (identify the culmination of the action)
- The resolution (how does the film end or reestablish status quo?)
- The dialogue (now, with sound on film, stories are generally delivered through dialogue; ask yourself how well this is done in this short film.)
After viewing the model film, please brainstorm an idea for a short film. You will be writing a film treatment first before we tackle a film script. See the handout and the notes below for more details about treatments.
Your completed treatment is due April 20. On this date, the long article on "The Screenwriter" will also be due. Please annotate and take Cornell notes on this article (see homework).
What is a Film Treatment?
A pitch is used to convince a film company to produce your film. The pitch is usually a 1-2 page summary of the main action, characters, and setting of the film. Essentially it deals with the idea.
The film treatment, however, is usually much longer. We'll split the difference and write a 2-5 page document that tells the whole story focusing on the highlights. A treatment is more detailed than a pitch. It can include a scene by scene breakdown of a script. It is used BEFORE writing the real script so the author can plan his/her project.
How To Write a Treatment
The treatment should read like a short story and be written in the present tense. It should present the entire story including the ending, and use some key scenes and dialogue from the screenplay it is based on.
What Should Be in the Treatment?
1. A Working title
The Three Act Structure
2. The writer's name
3. Introduction to key characters
4. Who, what, when, why and where.
5. Act 1 in one to three paragraphs. Set the scene, dramatize the main conflicts.
6. Act 2 in two to six paragraphs. Should dramatize how the conflicts introduced in Act 1 lead to a crisis.
7. Act 3 in one to three paragraphs. Dramatize the final conflict and resolution.
Basic screenplay structure for a full-length film usually has three acts.
In The Poetics
, Aristotle suggested that all stories should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Well, duh. You know that. But really. You need to remember this advice.
Breaking the plot of a story into three parts gives us a 3-part or act structure. The word "act" means "the action of carrying something out. For our purposes think act one (beginning), act two (middle), and act three (end) of your short film.
Act 1, called the Set-up, The situation and characters and conflict are introduced. This classically is 30 minutes long. For a short film, it can be only a few minutes or 1 minute.
Act 2, called The Conflict, often an hour long, is where the conflict begins and expands until it reaches a crisis.
Act 3, called The Resolution, the conflict rises to one more crisis (the last one called the climax) and then is resolved.
How To Write The Treatment
Find A Title
The first contact a prospective producer has with a script is the title. Pick a title that gives a clear idea of what genre the screenplay is written in. Blood House is probably not a romantic comedy. Americans like one or two word titles: Psycho, Saw, Rampage, Rocky, Pan's Labyrinth, Animal House, Tangled, Avatar, Titanic, The Avengers, etc.
After a title, start a logline
: a brief one-sentence summary of the movie. For example: And Then Came Love
is a character-driven romantic comedy about a high-powered Manhattan single mom who opens Pandora's box when she seeks out the anonymous sperm donor father of her young son.
For further help working on this project, check out this model:
So a little more writing while we're writing our treatments (due April 20). As we watch our next film, King Kong
(1933), I want to stress writing the film critique--for that is what we will be focusing on for your 2nd marking period "Journal Paper".
A movie review
is generally a media gimmick encouraged by newspapers and production companies to encourage viewers to see a new film. They criticize the film a bit, but their main purpose is to tell a viewer a little about the film and get him/her to go see it. Let's take a look at a sample from the new movie: Rampage
As we read the review, identify the following parts:
- A hook
- A lead-in to the most important point or thesis (should I go see this film?)
- A short summary of the film's story or narrative (what's the film about?)
- A reference to the director, actors, or other key authors of the film (who's in the film I might recognize?)
- A comment on the film's relevance (why should I go see this film?)
- A snappy evaluation about the quality of the overall viewing experience (should I pay to see this film? If so, why? What am I, as a viewer, going to get out of it?)
A film critique
is more academic. This is the sort of thing students in film studies classes write. They're similar to your journal papers. You will need more research and approach your topic from a critical point of view--a critical lens, if you will.
For the film King Kong
(1933), we will critique
the film using one of three critical lenses or literary criticism schools of thought: feminism or gender theory, Marxist theory, and/or post-colonial criticism. Now the academic part. Let's review those handouts, folks!
1. All good research for an academic essay starts with background and research. Here:
OUR TASK: As we view and study the film King Kong
(1933), please choose one of the critical lenses and use this critical lens to make sense and analyze the film. You may find the handouts, script sample, and the material posted here as helpful aspects for your written discussion.
One of the greatest and influential films of the 1930's was the adventure-fantasy film King Kong
(1933). Merian Cooper
and Ernest Schoedsack co-produced and directed this epic film for RKO, starring blonde-bombshell (and the "Queen of Scream") Fay Wray
as Ann--the beauty.
At its core is the archetypal Beauty and the Beast story. It is a quest and a love story too!
The film takes place mostly in the exotic and fictional setting of Skull Island, and then later in New York City. The similarities are obvious... It is one of the first city-destruction films as well.
Other characters include a filmmaker (Carl Denham) played by Robert Armstrong
, and our typical hero-adventurer guy (Jack Driscoll), played by Bruce Cabot
. Various victims, sailors, and natives round out the cast. The biggest star, however, is the little clay model of Kong himself.
The screenplay was written by James Ashmore Creelman and Ruth Rose, based on a story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace
. It is further influenced by the works of Arthur Conan Doyle
& Edgar Rice Burroughs
The film was shot in 1932, using set pieces from the film The Most Dangerous Game
(1932)--which, incidentally, also starred Fay Wray. You may, if you wish, watch the complete film: The Most Dangerous Game
(1932) as extra credit.
broke all previous box-office records in Hollywood and helped save RKO from bankruptcy. The film was re-released 4 times (1933, 1938, 1942, and 1946). Parts of the film were cut, censored, and then restored, or lost. One scene was the gruesome spider pit scene--that is shown in its glory by Peter Jackson's recent remake of the film. Here you go, brave-hearts
. Peter Jackson
also recreated the sequence by stitching the original footage remaining together with Hollywood magic...Lost Spider Sequence
The film received no awards at its time of release. Special Effects awards were not yet invented. The use of rear projection, miniature models, trick photography, stop-motion animation were superbly done by chief technician Willis O'Brien, famed for his feature film The Lost World
Musical score is by Max Steiner
, who also composed the score for Gone with the Wind
(1939) and Casablanca (1941)
. and was the first feature length musical score written specifically for a talking film--it actually has a thematic score rather than background music, and a recorded 45-piece orchestra. All sound effects were recorded on 3 separate tracks, so one for dialogue, one for music, and one for sound effects. This becomes standard in most films of the decade.
Consider the Japanese kaiju (giant monster) films that come after this one to see how it was influential. Stop-motion models inspired filmmakers like Ray Harryhausen
to make their own epics, and was the typical style used in monster movies until Star Wars
(1977)--the last major use of the form being The Clash of the Titans
Now you're all set with the background stuff; let's watch.
HOMEWORK: A few things. #1: complete a film treatment. This assignment is due April 20.
#2: Read and annotate (and take Cornell notes) on the chapter on The Screenwriter. See handout. Complete this long article by April 20.
#3: Complete a film critique using one of the critical theories (handouts) for the film King Kong (1933). This is also due April 20--but it might be April 24 if we haven't completed the film...; use the handouts on King Kong and these notes to help you with your critique.