The Destructiveness of Formulaic Screenwriting
Robert McKee: That there are \r\ncertain points, certain pages in fact, in which certain things must \r\nhappen. You got 120 pages—although screenplays are getting shorter, \r\nbecause the emphasis on spectacle becomes greater and greater... And so,\r\n anyways, say 100 pages. And properly typed in the right format, a page\r\n is equal to a minute of time. And so they say, at a certain page, \r\ntherefore at a certain minute, more or less in the film, there must be a\r\n major turning point of some kind, or expositional point, a revelation \r\nof some kind perhaps. And that the worst advice is to—many, many books \r\nthat say certain events must happen at certain pages in a screenplay. I\r\n mean, that is the most destructive possible thing to say to a young \r\nwriter. And to actually destroy a young talent by actually convincing \r\nhim that he has to pretzel his work into these page counts, that is just\r\n terrible.
But there is a rhythm, and in order to reach \r\nanything like a satisfying limit of experience for these characters, \r\ngenerally, you need a minimum of three major reversals. Okay? And you \r\nspread those... it could be four or five, I mean “Raiders of the Lost \r\nArk” was in seven acts. It could be seven, eight, nine acts structures,\r\n I mean in “Speed,” if you counted the major reversals in a chase film \r\nlike “Speed” or whatever, it's probably nine. Every ten minutes \r\nsomething explosive happens. Right? But three is a minimum. And if \r\nthe film is, again, 100 minutes long, and you’re going to space those \r\nthree out in some kind of fashion, then clearly one of these is going to\r\n happen, perhaps at the very beginning. There may be another one \r\nsomewhere in the middle and maybe one toward the end, or it could be the\r\n first one happens like 30 minutes in, and the next one happens like 90 \r\nminutes in, or whatever. Okay, so you can have, obviously if they have \r\n100 minutes of storytelling, you can’t have three major events happen, \r\nbang, bang, bang, in the first 15 minutes and then leave 75 minutes \r\nworth of resolution. Okay? Nor can you make somebody sit there for 75 \r\nminutes in which nothing happens and then bang, bang, bang three things \r\nhappen in the last 15 minutes. So, obviously these events have to be \r\ndistributed with a certain rhythm. Exactly what that rhythm is, is so \r\nidiosyncratic to the nature of the story that is being told that you \r\ncannot predict, or demand that they happen on certain pages, but you can\r\n point out to the writer, of course that there is a rhythm and that you \r\nhave to hook the audience’s interest, hold it, and progress it for up to\r\n 120 minutes, two hours, even more in many films. And to do that you’ll\r\n need at least three major reversals and then you’ve got to work out how\r\n to distribute them.
So, there’s certain forms. There’s a \r\nform, but by the page is a formula, and that formula kind of thinking is\r\n very destructive.
Don't try to put plot points on specific page numbers, says the screenwriting guru.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.