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DZ-55: Character Motivations (Part 1)

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

Release Date: 01/15/2019

DZ-63: Tools for Better Dialogue (Part 2) - Hook and Eye show art DZ-63: Tools for Better Dialogue (Part 2) - Hook and Eye

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

Stu and Chas have kidnapped Stephen Cleary to once again develop some craft tools around dialogue. In Part 2 of this series, we analyse key scenes from films and TV shows famous for their dialogue, namely FLEABAG (Season 2, Episode 5), JUNO and DEADWOOD (The Pilot). The biggest tools we explore are: the hook and eye; how dialogue can reveal status and empathy; rhythm; contrast and affinity; and pacing.

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Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

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Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

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Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

In this episode, Chas and Stu deep dive into the controversial area of “unfilmables” — those alleged screenwriting sins, where a writer writes a line that (apparently) cannot be seen or heard. But many produced spec scripts use unfilmables to great effect. So how and why do they “get away with it”?

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Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

A short-shot into Avengers Endgame. What began as an exploration of how to dramatise character change swiftly became an exploration of how to position audience in relation to your characters. Do you want the audience empathising with the characters? Feeling what they are feeling in the moment? Or do you want your audience sympathising with your characters? Being rocked by surprise after the fact? Reminding your audience of their own personal relationship with the characters.

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DZ-58: Game of Thrones - Character Exposition show art DZ-58: Game of Thrones - Character Exposition

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

while we thought this episode would be an extension of our previous musings on exposition, in nearly every great scene we assessed, the characters basically said “screw talking about plot or backstory” and instead exposited about their character. How it feels to be them. How they have, or have not, changed.

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DZ-57: Backmatter - Aesthetics and Forgiveness in Writing show art DZ-57: Backmatter - Aesthetics and Forgiveness in Writing

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

It is time (in fact, well past time) for our semi-annual #Backmatter episode. For the uninitiated, this is an episode where Stu and Chas discuss career and craft-related topics beyond what makes great screenplays work. To that end, Stu and Chas dive into: a five year review of Draft Zero and how it has changed their writing craft and process; a discussion on the aesthetics of writing; learnings for emerging writers in having their work produced; and finally forgiving yourself for not writing.

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DZ-56: Character Motivations (Part 2) show art DZ-56: Character Motivations (Part 2)

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

Chas & Stu examine moments where they did not believe a key decision being made by a character and so were taken out of the movie. They apply the tools they developed in Part 1 to workshop potential fixes to these beats.

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DZ-55: Character Motivations (Part 1) show art DZ-55: Character Motivations (Part 1)

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

In part 1 of this 2-part episode, Chas & Stu look at examples of good character motivation.  We’ve all watched movies where we don’t believe the motivation of a character or characters. We may have even written scripts where readers don’t buy the character’s choices. To help us solve the problem of how to improve our character motivations, in this episode we explore great examples of character motivation and how they have helped the audience believe a character’s decision. 

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DZ-54: Thematic Sequences show art DZ-54: Thematic Sequences

Draft Zero: a screenwriting podcast

Chas and Stu are joined, once again, by the inestimable Stephen Cleary. This episode is a spiritual sequel to our last episode with Stephen, the one on sequence structure. We talk about a different type of sequence: the thematic sequence. By limiting (or removing all together) questions related to character or plot, filmmakers can force their audience to engage with the deeper, underlying meaning of the story.

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More Episodes

In part 1 of this 2-part episode, Chas & Stu look at examples of good character motivation.  We’ve all watched movies where we don’t believe the motivation of a character or characters. We may have even written scripts where readers don’t buy the character’s choices. And that’s often a real problem because most of these choices coincide with key structural moments — e.g. the moments where the characters decide to do something “out of character” in order to progress to the next part of the story.  To help us solve the problem of how to improve our character motivations, in this episode we explore great examples of character motivation and how they have helped the audience believe a character’s decision. 

And so Chas and Stu dive into NOTTING HILL, TO ALL THE BOYS I’VE LOVED BEFORE, GAME NIGHT, ARRIVAL, IN THE BEDROOM, BEIRUT, BREAKING BAD, THE MATRIX, BLOCKERS, A NEW HOPE (of course) and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR. Passing/honourable mention also to MANCHESTER BY THE SEA, THE COMMUTER, THE LOBSTER, GAME OF THRONES, IRON MAN, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY and DOCTOR STRANGE (as we re-visit and re-contextualise stuff we’ve analysed previously). 

The potential craft tools they uncover are character patterning, structural timing of the decision, debating the decision (both internally and externally), withholding the decision from the audience, and using external plot elements to either remove obstacles or push the character into making a decision that is... well... out of character. But believably so.

Stay tuned for Part II where we - for once - actually do explore ome bad examples of character motivation.

As always: SPOILERS ABOUND!

Audio quotations used for educational purposes only. Timestamps indicated below. Chapter markers included in the mp3. Watch it on on YouTube. 

Read the transcript on GitHub or in HTML.

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