Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Screenwriting Lessons of Michael Arndt from Go Into the Story

For those interested in screenwriting, the blog "Go Into the Story" by Scott Myers is a valuable resource and his Twitter Feed (@GoIntoTheStory) is a great one to follow.

Scott has begun a series of posts looking at writer Michael Arndt's approach to screenwriting.

Fans craving an early idea of how Star Wars: Episode VII will be structured or what kind of story Arndt might tell should give these posts a read.

Part 1: Follow your bliss, Theme is critical, and Writing is writing and re-writing.
Theme is critical. Stories are always about something. Little Miss Sunshine is about winning and losing, success and failure. The Hoover family is – on the surface – a bunch of losers. And yet on their Hero’s Journey, they discover commonality, even filial love in their shared state.

Part 2: The lens of character and hard work.

On approaching Toy Story 3 from Woody's perspective:
Arndt explains Woody’s personal development by comparing his emotional progress in the films with that of a child. “In Toy Story, Woody is learning to share the spotlight with Buzz,” he explains. “He’s like a child who gets a new sibling and has to realize he doesn’t always have to be the favorite. That tracks emotionally with someone who is 5 or 6 years old. 
“In Toy Story 2,” Arndt continues, “Woody has to deal with and accept his mortality. That tracks with a child who is 8 to 10 years old.” With the plot devised for Toy Story 3, Woody needed to progress to a more mature sentiment — that of a teenager — in order for the film to have the correct impact. “Woody learns about the impermanence of things and the necessity for letting go and moving on,” Arndt says. “So there’s an arc to his development across the trilogy. Even though there are common elements in all three films, I do think we’re telling a different story in each of them, as well as one big over-arching story that spans the trilogy.”
On Pixar's philosophy towards constructing a screenplay:
Arndt’s observations on his time at Pixar only confirm what many film pundits and fans have long suspected: Pixar’s films are such rousing successes because of the attention each individual at the studio dedicates to the screenplays. “Andrew Stanton’s rule of thumb is that it takes 10 man-years of labor to make a good screenplay,” Arndt explains. “Either two writers working five years or 10 guys working one year. For Toy Story 3, it was even more than that — probably the equivalent of 10 people working two or three years.”

Part 3: Ending the story
This scene you’re about to see is the climax of the movie. And it’s really the thing I’m most proud of because as a writer, I’m a big believer in endings. I think that the ending of your story is when the meaning of your story is revealed. But I also think in setting up the story… a good story for me is for a character, right before the climax, taking a decisive action, making an important decision. And usually you’ve got to make that decision as difficult as possible.

Video of Michael Ardnt speaking in 2007 at a book store in San Francisco from Post #3

Little Miss Sunshine: The Shooting Script from Cody's Books on

SOURCE: GoIntoTheStory

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