Spotlight & The Big Short: The Difference Between Plot and Structure (ISA Sponsored)

Posted: Mar 22, 2016 Hosted By: Jacob Krueger

...This week we're going to be looking at two Oscar winners, Spotlight and The Big Short. And we're going to be discussing at them not only as good screenplays, but as examples of very different kinds of screenplays. We're going to be looking at them in terms of the difference between plot and structure. The concepts of plot and structure are ideas that get mixed up all the time. They are words that are often used interchangeably, but that in my opinion actually mean very different things. I like to think of plot as "the crap that happens in your movie," or, for that matter, in your life. And I like to think of structure as the choices a character makes in relation to that plot: the choices that change their lives forever. Plot is the stuff that happens, but structure is your character's change.


And if you think about your own life, you'll probably realize that the difference between plot and structure matters to you as well. You've probably met the person who gets a hangnail and it destroys their whole day. And you've probably also met the person who gets cancer and gets a whole new lease on life. You have probably met the person who finds beauty in the most horrible situations and the person who creates horror into the most beautiful ones. And this is the exciting thing about the difference between plot and structure.


Plot, as much as we obsess about it, is pretty much interchangeable. We spend so much time as writers, and in our daily lives, thinking about plot, worrying about "what happens next, what happens next, what happens next," that we forget to think about what it all really means. We forget that what really matters is not just what happens, but what the we do in relationship to what happens. And how we allow that to bring meaning and change to our lives. Having said that, I want to start with a script that flies right in the face of all that. A script that focuses mainly on plot rather than structure. And that script is Spotlight...