For all of you out there who are Eagles fans, I send you a happy congratulations on your Super Bowl win. Being a fan of the Chicago Cubs, I know how difficult it is to be a fan of a team that consistently fails to win a championship, so bravo. I hope you’re reveling in the glory of the win for months and years to come.
For those of who don’t care about American football, nor did you watch the Super Bowl yesterday, I also send a happy congratulations. It is quite literally an overly commercialized event geared toward selling things to a mass audience. So bravo to you for ignoring it. I’m saying this in jest, of course, but…I digress, and let's dive in to our weekly tip and lesson.
My favorite ad during the Super Bowl was a fake movie trailer for a remake of the popular 80’s movie, Crocodile Dundee. And though I knew about the ad campaign for Australian tourism, and I knew that they had promoted this idea of a Crocodile Dundee reboot even before the Super Bowl, the ad still got me excited for the possibility of such a remake (again, even though I knew it wasn't real). I was thinking about why it got me excited, and like I do far too often, I broke down my thought process and the fake movie itself…all within about five minutes after the ad aired.
So why did the ad make an impact? Was it because of the hunky Chris Hemsworth teaming up with an idiotic but lovable Danny McBride? Maybe. Was it because of the laugh out loud moments, especially when Danny McBride’s Crocodile Dundee character was acting tough by shaving his beard with a knife, only to cause extensive bleeding all over his face and neck? Probably. There was more to it than that, though. Ultimately, it was because the fake trailer didn’t seem fake at all. It seemed more than just plausible to reboot the 80’s movie, and not just because of Hollywood’s love for remaking classic films. It seemed plausible because the trailer was presenting an element of screenwriting that I constantly remind all of the writers I work with on a daily basis. I have talked about this element extensively through my online coursework, my book on screenwriting, and during live events I host with the International Screenwriters Association.
I call it the recurring moment, but the terminology doesn’t really matter. Some call it the “hook”, but again, it doesn’t matter what the consultants or educators name it. The Crocodile Dundee fake reboot movie trailer focused on the most important aspect of the movie business; creating a situation that audiences will want to see occur over and over again because they know it will not only keep them interested, but present to them ongoing entertainment throughout the 2nd Act. On top of that, the audience also unconsciously sees the opportunity for change and evolution for the main character because of the situation the main character will be experiencing and with whom.
If you have any intention to write movies for the Hollywood machine, you have to come to a complete understanding of what the recurring moment really is, means, and how it establishes nearly the entire foundation for a sellable Hollywood screenplay. In that fake movie trailer, we see Danny McBride (who we, the audience, already know usually plays characters who are over zealous, blindly naïve, cocky for no reason, but is well-meaning at the heart of it all) as the son of the original Crocodile Dundee, but he’s grown up in America. The character is presented as someone who believes he can be like his confident, rugged, adventuring father, but obviously has no idea what the hell he’s doing. We then see that he’ll be plopped down in the heart of Australia with a character, Chris Hemsworth, who is in every way possible, exactly who he is trying to be. Because of this situational and character set-up, there comes the possibility for a near-endless amount of ridiculous moments, and we can anticipate those moments even before they happen. That is the sign of a sellable movie. Consider the tagline for the fake film, “The son of an Australian legend returns home.” The movie trailer then zooms in on Danny McBride standing on the edge of a cliff and he says, “G’day…losers.” And he plays with this giant knife like it’s a light saber or something.
The tagline could have easily said, “The son of an Australian legend returns home…and it’s this idiot.” Just that tagline alone presents a situation that, like I said, creates anticipation for the moments that could occur throughout the rest of the movie. Not only is that the basis for a hook and recurring moment, but it’s also why movie trailers exist.
Does your movie need to be as simple as a Crocodile Dundee reboot? Of course not. And your movie will likely not be a remake of an 80’s classic, but even if you’re writing a dramatic thriller that takes place in one location with three characters, you still need to identify what the anticipated moment is for your story. What will the audience be excited to experience over and over again in the middle of your movie, and is that moment repeatable?
I’m happy that we’re not seeing another 80’s classic get remade, but then again it would have been pretty fun seeing Danny McBride act like an idiotic version of Crocodile Dundee for a couple hours.
Thanks for reading, everyone, and I hope these weekly lessons and tips are helping your writing flow and creativity. I'm here to help! If you would like to work with me or one of my Story Farm Coaches, we have a few spots left for 2018. We can help you develop multiple projects, both TV and Film, and draw out the entertaining hook and moment for your soon-to-be classic. Just reply to this email and inquire about your options, or go to www.TheStoryFarm.org to find out more.
Also keep an eye out for announcements from the ISA about the new membership that The Story Farm has helped create and launch. We’re calling it Connect Plus, and for only $29/month, you will get a rolling 6-week live course taught by me, as well as monthly educational and inspirational videos from myself and The Story Farm coaches, plus a members-only screenplay contest, exclusive podcast interviews, free logline feedback, and a bunch of other benefits that are all aimed at improving your craft, writing, and chances at making it in this business. All of those benefits also include the regular ISA Connect membership benefits, and any Story Farm writer who works with us for 6 or 12 months receives the Connect Plus membership for free. So stay tuned. There is so much going on with The Story Farm and the ISA - we're excited about 2018, to say the least.
Thanks for reading, and I look forward to supporting you and your screenwriting dreams.
Cheers to a successful week.
--Max Timm and The Story Farm