Getting the Characters Into Action

So we’ve said the first part of Act One is about world building and introducing characters.  In that post, we provided you with some of our main and supporting characters and a little bit about each of them.

Now, it’s time to start figuring out how we get them interacting and put them into this world that we’re building.

First, you might remember that we envisioned a couple of things for making this film:  First, that we could film it on a low to modest budget (meaning very few locations and could be shot in a minimal amount of time). Second, we wanted a film that focused on story and creating emotions.  If any of you saw the recent film “Eighth Grade” then you can imagine the type of film we’re looking to make.

We decided to make a film about a high school senior (we’ll call him “Jinx” for now) who has to try to move past a horrible accident, and because of the overwhelming guilt he feels, wants to leave his small Texas town forever.  Less than a year after the accident, he is coaxed to come to a graduation party at a lake house.

And so the outline begins.  The way Rick and I write together, one of us will start with the genesis of the story.  We’re not actually writing the script, mind you, we’re just putting in a Microsoft Word document a draft of ideas for the story.  I drew the short straw, so I’ll write a few ideas for the opening.  Rick will follow behind, edit my first draft and add some ideas of his own, and we’ll go back and forth until we’re somewhat happy with moving on to the next sequence.

I started with putting Jinx and his friend Ellie and Tate in a car on the way to the graduation party.  While they’re talking about graduation earlier that day and about the party to come, what we want to make sure in writing the script is that it’s not expositional dialogue.  In other words, we don’t want them describing everything that’s happened, and we don’t want to use flashbacks (or if we do, to use them sparingly). So we just drop hints at what’s happened in this past, to set up for a big reveal later.

We’ll have them drive through the small town that they live in, to give everyone a hint of this place that Jinx is trying to escape.  Thus, we don’t have to have a full discussion by the characters of what the town is like.  You’ll see it and understand.

Next, we have them arriving at the party.  Given the small town, we couldn’t have hundreds of students attending the party and it’s this huge blow out.  It’ll be maybe 50 to 75 students, and consequently everyone is going to know each other, meaning we don’t have to introduce characters to each other.  But we do have to introduce them to you, which we hope to do by the way they interact with each other.

Jinx, Ellie and Tate arrive at the party, and Jinx is self-conscious about the way people are looking at him (or how he perceives people are looking at him).  This will be a continuing theme — how people react to him versus how they might actually be reacting.  This world Jinx lives in is a world that he’s built to help him cope with what he’s done in the past.

Ellie leaves Jinx and Tate to go visit with some friends, and after she goes, Jinx tells Tate that he’s always had a crush on her.  Tate asks why he’s never acted on it, and that’s when he reveals he’s leaving for college when the summer’s over and never coming back.  Tate is clearly surprised — he didn’t think Jinx was going to college and was instead going to get involved in the family business (perhaps we’ve even seen this business during that opening drive through the town), but Jinx wants nothing of it.

Through this small but impactful exchange, we’ve established some important story points that will have to be developed and addressed throughout the film:  (1) Jinx’s relationship with Ellie, (2) Jinx’s desire to move on from this small town; and (3) the family business that he’s obviously expected to take over someday.

This is creating tension and important for making the film interesting to the viewer.  As we continue to develop the outline, we’ll continue to drop in these kind of plot points and create obstacles that will hinder our protagonist from achieving his goals.

Will delve further into the outline in future posts.  Hope you continue to follow along!

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