To better understand the way great movies are made, I’ve started a series of e-books called “The Elements of a Great Script.” The goal is to analyze a great movie so you can better understand its structure. Once you understand the basic story structure underlying your favorite movies, you can better see how to use that same structure to write your own screenplay.
The first volume of this series covers “Star Wars” while later volumes will cover other popular movies that have stood the test of time. What you’ll find by analyzing great movies is that they all rely on creating mini-stories that consist of characters pursuing a goal. For example, the bar scene in “Star Wars” is all about Obi-wan looking for a pilot. The beginning of the scene occurs when Obi-wan and Luke enter the bar full of dangerous characters. Right away, Obi-wan talks to Chewbacca. Then a drunk alien tries to attack Luke and Obi-wan saves him. Finally, Chewbacca takes Obi-wan to see Hans.
That mini-story starts with a goal (find a pilot) and ends with a major step towards that goal (Chewbacca leads Obi-wan to Hans). Then the next mini-story starts with a goal of securing a pilot.
First, Obi-wan meets Hans. Then Hans talk about the price. Obi-wan negotiates to pay two thousand up front and fifteen upon arrival. Hans agrees and Obi-wan and Luke slip away as storm troopers arrive to look for them.
Now Hans goes through a mini-story of his own where his goal is to get to his ship. Suddenly a bounty hunter stops him. Hans manages to shoot the bounty hunter. Then he continues on his way to his ship, which was his original goal at the beginning of this mini-story.
By seeing how mini-stories create suspense and foreshadow future events, you can better understand the structure of any movie. The great movies all follow the same story structure. Bad movies omit story structure elements, which is why they feel disjointed, boring, or incomplete.
More of these “The Elements of a Great Script” will appear soon so if you’re interested in dissecting a great movie, you can start with this first volume that covers “Star Wars.”