Saturday, July 6, 2013

Dan O'Bannon's Guide to Screenplay Structure by Dan O'Bannon

Dan O’Bannon with Matt R. Lohr. Dan O’Bannon’s Guide to Screenplay Structure. Studio City, Ca.: Michael Wiese Productions, 2013.

Screenwriting involves “focusing the audience’s attention into a state of hypnotic concentration on the screen, and holding it for two hours”, according to the author.

The great movies deliver the unexpected. Thus, it is hard to produce anything astonishing when all follow the same screenwriting rules. “The rules embalm screenplays”, according to O’Bannon. Instead, the author recommends following a “story structure system.”

O’Bannon recommends writing and seeking help only when needed.

O’Bannon discovered that screenwriting rules are there be three acts, conflicts portrayed in the first act, and the darkest hour occurs in the second act.. O’Bannon replaces conflict with characters in conflict. He replaces “darkest hour” with “moment of greatest conflict.” He recommends creating an “issue of contention” in the first act and increasing the tension until “backing away from the conflict is no longer possible”, or “the point of no return.” This, thus, is O’Bannon’s system.

O’Bannon defines “story structure” as the preexisting character relationships that bring together the elements that coalesce into a complete story. Story structure is an invisible construction of character relationships as the story progresses.

O’Bannon observes most others screenwriting systems are “striving based” while his system is “fight-based.”

Conflict can exist between characters, a character a non-character (i.e. fire, outer space, etc.), or a character versus himself/herself. Multiple types of these conflicts can exist. O’Bannon recommends that obstacles have their own motives and personalities.

O’Bannon’s three arts are Act 1, where conflict is defined, characters presented, and situations disclosed. Act 2 is where the plot worsens upon the antagonist’s situation until reaching the point of no return. Act 3 resolved the decisive confrontation.

At the point of no return, the stakes are at the very highest possible. The stakes are raised in steps. The conflicts escape.

Science fiction involves changing the rules of Physics.

Actions are what present how characters are.

Drama is “a story about conflict”” often where a “new truth” about the human condition is presented. “Melodrama” usually has more “plot contrivances” that entertain more than expose the human condition. “Tragedy” presents “human frailty.” “Comedy” removes the audience from a characters sufferings as their pains look “ ridiculous” where “laughter negates fear.”

Character should control their paths.

A story should present only what is needed for the story.

A screenplay using hedonic adaptation creates unexpected situations, increases intensities, and raise actions such that the viewers find all these as acceptable.

O’Bannon states there is seldom any relationship between the number of pages in a script and the film’s running time. He finds that one page of a screenplay often does not equal one minute of film, as some claim is usual. O’Bannon observes it is the pace of the script that matters.

A writer should use inspiration to write.

“A producer is the person who makes the picture happen”, according to James Bates. The producer may do whatever the producer wants.

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